Open skies classroom of the great outdoors is a hit with school pupils
Myddelton College Denbigh pupils enjoying the great outdoors. Pictured front Constance Beveleystone with L/R Myddelton College Year 8 pupils , Chloe Szyplinski, Ffion Williams, Abigail Griffiths and Oliver Leech. P
A LLANGOLLEN teacher has an unusual classroom – there’s no roof, it’s often wet and temperatures can fall to freezing and below.
It’s because the great outdoors is now a regular learning space for pupils at Myddelton College who venture out for a day of Outdoor Learning, which could involve walking, scrambling and climbing, canoeing and kayaking, orienteering or visits to castles and heritage sites.
It’s part of the curriculum for pupils from Year Three upwards at the private school in Denbigh, which was the UK’s newest private school when it launched in 2016, with older students given the chance to take part in a three-week trip down Canada’s Yukon River.
Ffion Williams, right, and other Year Eight pupils of Myddelton College with Adventure Education teacher Chris Eastabrook in the woods above Llyn Padarn, in Snowdonia
Their outdoor education programme has so impressed Welsh education inspectorate ESTYN that they have asked the school to write a case study on its provision for other schools to use.
But there are plenty of challenges closer to home according to the school’s Head of Learning Through The Outdoors (LTTO), Chris Eastabrook, from Llangollen.
He said: “It’s all about enriching their classroom learning. They could be climbing in an old quarry and as well as learning how to do that they’re getting an understanding of geology, biology and industrial history.
“It’s known that there’s a strong link between mental well-being and green spaces and as a nation our mental well-being is at a low point.
“It’s also about education in the round and our students’ personal and social skills and the importance we attach to it is reflected by the fact that it’s a tenth of the timetable.”
Myddelton College Year Eight pupils tackle the rocky slopes above Llyn Padarn, from left. Sophie Morrice Evans, Oliver Leech and Bea Marston
Recent trips for the school, which draws its pupils from across the globe as well as across North Wales and the North West, have included visits to the slate mines of Blaenau Ffestiniog and to the Gribin Facet, in the Ogwen Valley, Snowdonia, the training ground for the 1953 ascent of Everest.
Chris and fellow LTTO teacher Jack Stanyer have just taken a Year Eight group climbing at Fachwen, near Llanberis, and he said: “We take them out in all weathers because it’s important they learn about risk management and the benefits of teamwork.
“This is an important part of the curriculum and the kit they’re wearing is part of the school uniform and is as important as a computer and includes outdoor equipment, walking boots and waterproofs.”
Myddelton College Adventure Education teacher Jack Stanyer
Abigail Griffiths, 13, from Kinnerton, said: “I’ve been at Myddelton College for three years and I like the outdoor learning and being outside.
“We do bushcraft and make fires and shelters and learn how to stay warm and safe – it’s good fun and we learn a lot as well.”
Chloe Szyplinski, 12, from Gwernymynydd, said: “It’s a lot of fun, especially the bushcraft, and it’s great being outside with your friends and doing interesting and exciting things like climbing.”
Sophie Morrice Evans
Headmaster Andrew Allman said: “It’s so important for our students to get experience of the outdoors so they can learn about it and about each other outside the classroom and I think that has become even more vital during lockdown.
“Resilience is one of our key themes and this also gives them the opportunity to conquer challenges they might not otherwise have experienced in their lives.
“It also teaches fellowship and gives our pupils an appreciation of the beauty of the countryside while at the same time teaching them practical applications of so many classroom subjects from maths to geography, to chemistry and physics.
“It’s something that has always been embedded into the timetable so that one day every fortnight they get out into the outdoors and it’s also an opportunity to build towards the Duke of Edinburgh Awards which we aim to help them achieve.”