Somerset Stories: Magdalen Environmental Trust

Dan Stevens, Head of Environmental Education at Magdalen Farm, explains how a grant for almost £50,000 from the Hinkley Point C (HPC) Community Fund is helping impacted local Bridgwater pupils benefit from the natural world through Forest School programmes and residential stays at Magdalen Farm.  

“Our Forest School Transitions project supports children struggling with transition from one step in their school journey to the next. For the vast majority that’s from primary to secondary school.

A girl looks excitedly into the camera, holding up a freshly laid egg from a chicken coup

For a lot of children, visiting Magdalen Farm is the first time they’ve stayed away from home.

The children could be lacking in social skills, or be incredibly low on self-confidence or self-esteem. Maybe they don’t learn well in a traditional classroom setting and need something more hands-on. We offer two hours a week to build their skills. That could be about making fires, crafting or just socialising. Then we can hopefully elevate those children to a position where they feel more capable to deal with their next step.

We start with small and achievable goals so everyone has a success story early on. Then we build on that incrementally. It’s very pupil-led. So, whether people want to cook over a fire, or make an obstacle course for others to go on, we’ll try and make that happen. We follow the pupil’s interests.

The sessions help get children in at the start of the school day and then successfully attend the lessons that follow. For those who struggle to make friends it gives them a small group to be part of, and increased confidence can help them bond with others.

Our Every Child Wild scheme provides the opportunity for an entire class, or sometimes two classes, to have a heavily discounted two-night, three-day stay at our residential centre, Magdalen Farm, which is an 132-acre organic working farm on the banks of the River Axe. For a lot of children it’s the first time they’ve stayed away from home.

The stays are about getting children to engage with the natural environment around them. Many of the kids that come to us haven’t had the chance to do things like build a den in some trees. So it’s an amazing opportunity for them to come and understand nature. And hopefully through that understanding they can develop a love for it and the desire to look after nature for the future.

Without your grant from the HPC Community Fund we wouldn’t have been able to work with the sheer number of children we have. It has allowed whole classes to have that shared experience – and means the cost doesn’t divide who can go and who can’t.”

16.11.23


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