Funding options for outdoor learning

Always a hot topic when it comes to outdoor learning is funding!

My project started with an initial £5000 from the school funds to get the ball rolling. In my naivety I thought it would be more than enough and the project would be up and running and everything I had ever hoped for, this wasn’t the case. That money brought 3 goats, fencing and the bus! Nowhere near enough to get the project finished so I had to look to other funding streams and here is what I found out.

Note: All these things are in my experience, yours might be different!

We contact the whole spectrum of companies and groups, from the local corner store to Tesco. We found that the big multinational companies are in a better place to help than local companies but it does take a lot of persistence and chasing after the right person.

Tesco

We linked up with our local Tesco and found out that they have a member of staff who’s roll it is too look after the local community. We invited her over to see the project and to explain what we hoped to achieve, she was immediately onboard and returned the following day with tools, seeds, hose and a whole box full of goodies. She also put us in touch with their ‘Tesco bags of help’ department which is a great idea. All the 5ps they receive for the carrier bags go into a big pot and then every month 3 projects are choosen in each district. Shoppers then vote which project they would like to receive the top amount of £5000 then £2000 and finally £1000. We have been lucky enough to secure £2000 from this project to put towards expanding and improving our farm.

Cemex

Cemex is a cement company which has work days put aside for local projects. We were contacted by them following local press coverage to see if we would like one of their work days. We had 7 members of their staff turn up and a lorry load of cement to build the slab for our stable and a path across our paddock, all for free.

Essex and Suffolk Water

Much like Cemex they have a set amount of days set aside to help the local community, We were lucky enough that one of our dads works for them and arranged the whole project. We had to buy the materials but 8 members of their staff spent the day building raised beds and ripping the floor out of our bus.

Now for some not so successful stories!

B and Q

Each store has a bin set aside for items that are damaged and they cannot sell, we the premise that it is then given away to local projects. We spent hours talking to our local store, to just about every member of staff but none were able to help us and tell us what we needed to do to take part in their initiate.

I have been super lucky that I have had two head teachers who have supported the project fully and have been in the lucky position that they were able to put some of the school funds into the project. With the change in funding happening very soon I fear that projects such as my school farm will be put on hold, lets hope this isn’t the case.

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Teaching the children business skills through growing fruit and vegetables.

This week definitely feels like spring is in the air and my attention is moving away from animals and the bus, to growing vegetables!

This is the first time I have attempted such a project and I’m not sure where or how to start! My dad will happily tell you that I do not have a green thumb and yet here I am, wanting to teach children to be proficient growers! I’m stepping out of my comfort zone for several reasons. Firstly, I feel it’s an important life skill to be able to grow your own crops, but there is a more important reason. We are turning it into a business!

The children are creating a ‘business’ and the end goal is to turn a profit from growing fruit and vegetables. The plan is for the children to have real jobs; from CEO, marketing, finance to ‘head of plants’. They will learn what is expected for their role and take responsibility for their area. They’ll learn team work, responsibility, creativity and decision-making – skills which are vital in the world of work but that are often neglected in school. It’s widely accepted that the children we are teaching will have careers and jobs that do not exist yet and that we cannot even imagine. In my opinion, we need to teach skills that will help them to succeed in business, as well at the more traditional subjects.

We won’t be doing this alone. We have the backing of Adnams (a local brewing company), which has now diversified into hotels and restaurants and this is where we come in. We are working with Siobhan Eke, who is the mastermind behind the project and the real driving force. With her support we will set up and run our company, sell our products (hopefully back to Adnams!) and reinvest our profit.

The project is in its early stages. At the moment, our students are trying to drum up support for the project in the form of financial assistance and equipment. They are really starting to take ownership of it though and have already started to bring in work they’ve done at home.

I have no idea if this project will work but I’m excited to take a step into the unknown. Let’s hope we can drum up support and interest for our venture and make it a real success. If early indications are anything to go by, the children’s enthusiasm WILL make it a success.

Our raised beds are almost ready… Now let’s get growing!

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4 things to cook with children on a camp fire!

Children need to engage in risk if they are to learn to how deal with risks. Education in the past 10 years has become scared of children taking risks, but green shoots of change are slowly appearing. Allowing children to take risks is key to them learning how to  manage it.

Cooking over an open fire is an easy way to expose children to a manageable degree of risk and with very tasty outcomes! Here are my top 5 things for children to cook on an open fire.

  1. Bread

Bread twists are a simple and delicious food to cook on the open fire. Mix together the following ingredients in a large bowl;

  • 1 cup of self raising flour
  • 2 tbsp of powdered milk
  • 1 tpsp of baking powder
  • 1/4 tpsp of salt
  • (optional) 1 tpsp of sugar

You will also need some vegetable oil to bind it together.

With the bread dough prepared, the children should heat the sticks over the fire.  Make sure they don’t burn – just enough to warm and sterilise the stick at the place that the bread dough will be going.

Get the children to start twisting the bread dough around the stick, using a bit of pressure so it adheres.  Then, cook over the fire.

The sticks should be maintained at a height where you can safely hold your hand for a few seconds before it gets hot.  Make sure they rotate their sticks regularly so that one side doesn’t get burnt.

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2. Popcorn

You can buy special popcorn making pans which are designed to go over an open fire. I prefer the more ‘hand made’ approach! Get two metal sieves and attach them so they are facing each other. Tie them together with metal wire. Attach them to a long stick and off you go! Just put the un-popped kernels into the sieves, keep them moving around and wait for them to pop!

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3. Chocolate Bananas

This one was my favourite when I was growing up! You need to let your fire burn down so there is no more flame. Cut open a banana (long ways, with the skin still on) and insert pieces of chocolate into the incision. You can experiment  with different types of chocolate, but from my experience buttons or a flake work well. Wrap the banana and chocolate in tin foil, place the parcel into the embers and leave for around 10 minutes. Take out and eat with a fork. Yum Yum!

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4. S’mores

This is my son’s favourite food to cook on an open fire and a great introduction to outdoor cooking. Skewer a marshmallow and roast on the fire until it starts to turn gooey, sandwich between two biscuits and enjoy!

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