By Shirley Shayler, Headmistress of Millfield Prep School
Outdoor experiential learning is a huge focus for our exciting programme of lessons and co-curricular activities here at Millfield Prep School. Our rural location is an outdoor lover’s paradise! It really is the ideal place to grow up in, foster a love of learning and create lifelong childhood memories. Our pupils learn by experiencing the environment and venturing into situations they might not normally encounter.
Specialist outdoor learning and adventure pathway
Our children have the chance to try an extraordinary variety of new opportunities in which to find their passion. Caving, Climbing, Clay Shooting, Paddleboarding, Surfing, Archery, Canoeing, Kayaking, Sailing and many more activities are incorporated into the exciting programme, all of which are linked to the curriculum and classwork.
Bushcraft survival skills
These are taught to Year 8 pupils, who learn how to build fires, make shelters, use a knife safely and look after their natural environment. The children love our camp-outs that take place in the school’s woods, where they learn by sleeping outdoors under self-made shelters using just a tarpaulin and a rope, as well as preparing woodpigeon and other outdoor food.
Volunteering at Shapwick Moor Nature Reserve
Every week, a team of enthusiastic children volunteer to take part in conservation efforts at the local Shapwick Moor Nature Reserve, part of the scenic Avalon Marshes wetlands. The Moor is a haven for wild birds and Millfield Prep pupils undertake a variety of tasks such as constructing bird hides, clearing trees and digging out scrapes to attract more wildlife to the area.
This is one of our important whole-school events, which sees us focus on a different theme each year, from Water Management to Climate Change. The school is visited by industry experts, and some classes go on excursions to conservation sites, farms and wetlands. In previous Eco Days over the years, pupils have built a bog garden in the Science Department’s wildlife area, with a pond, orchard and hedge, as well as a greenhouse made from recycled plastic bottles, for future pupils to practice their gardening skills. Pupils enjoy observing ducks, frogs, voles and wild birds taking shelter in the garden area.
Organised camps for whole year groups
In order for pupils to experience the great outdoors beyond the local landscape, organised camps for whole year groups take place with PGL and at the Eden Project in Cornwall. Other trips include voyaging on Youth Sail training vessel ‘Prolific’ with the Ocean Youth Trust and adventures in Scotland at the end of the year, involving canoeing across Loch Ness, a hike up Ben Nevis and wild camping overnight.
Pathway to more adventures at Millfield
When our pupils move up to Millfield in Year 9, they can choose to take part in additional challenges and activities alongside multi-activity programme opportunities, including Ten Tors, the Duke of Edinburgh Award and CCF, as well as co-curricular activities such as Beekeeping and Falconry. Last year, a group of Year 9 pupils went on an expedition to Hardangervidda National Park in Norway - climbing steep terrain, reaching a 1400m summit and fishing for their supper in the River Otra. Next year will see a group taking on North Africa’s highest mountain, Mount Toubkal.
Not only do these practical life experiences create skills which can be directly applied, but nature and the great outdoors provide powerful learning experiences that we can take into all aspects of life, relating the lessons we learn to everyday situations. Intellect on its own is not a measure of success and that is why we will continue to look at the richness of experience outside the classroom and offer these amazing opportunities to our children.
Find out more about Outdoor Learning at Millfield Prep here.