• Outdoor Learning Educate Magazine St Margaret Mary's Primary School

A school’s hidden gem

As Lancashire Wildlife Trust expands its Forest School project into Liverpool, a hidden gem of an outdoor learning paradise has been revealed within the school grounds of St Margaret Mary’s Catholic Junior School in Huyton.

Headteacher Marcella Armstrong is a woman with a vision, and for the last two and a half years has been drastically improving the school’s outdoor education facilities.

In that time, local contractor Simon Lyon has built an entire forest school area, a fully-functioning cabin classroom with electricity, a tipi, prayer and memorial garden, and is now working on a mini replica of the Shakespearian Globe Theatre.

Marcella said: “My vision has been inspired by a dream to provide the children with the best possible outdoor educational, recreational, and environmental areas. I truly believe that learning principles are equally as beneficial both inside and outside of the classroom.

“St Margaret Mary’s is in an area of low aspiration and has its fair share of social problems. The outside improvements will offer the children a deeper appreciation of culture, raise aspirations of the school’s curriculum and will have a positive effect on their health and wellbeing.

“The prayer and memorial garden was constructed to incorporate the catholic symbolism of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, so hence the three paths joining at the central water feature representing the Circle of Life.

“We wanted the area to be an area of peace and tranquility, and somewhere for any child to go and think. The memorial section is particularly focused on the Hillsborough event, in which many people tragically lost their lives.”

Simon said: “There were a couple of people in the area that had relatives who passed at Hillsborough, so I gave them the opportunity to get involved planting 96 individual flower boxes, one representing every person that died.

“Any of the children, adults, staff or visitors are now free to go in there, sit and reflect.”
Marcella said: “We’re also currently building a miniature Shakespearian Globe Theatre which would offer, amongst many things, theatrical learning, presentation and confidence building for the children.

“An association has been formed with Professor Elspeth Graham from Liverpool’s John Moore’s University (LJMU) who has provided advice on how the structure could be translated onto the playground.  I’ve also met with representatives from the Globe Theatre in London who are thrilled with the concept and are keen to become involved and provide support and guidance”.

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About Author: Alan Birkett