MILL LANE SCHOOL ASSOCIATION

RCN 1058752, Chinnor

We raise money for Mill Lane School to spend on classroom resources, school trips and extra curricular activities to enhance the children's learning.

MILL LANE SCHOOL ASSOCIATION

https://www.mill-lane.oxon.sch.uk/core/passwords/read_logo/12287c28909f2ef8a287e57cda1ecb2cMill Lane Community Primary School

The Great Outdoors Project

Bringing Gruffland back to life

Developing our Outdoor Educational Offer for future generations 

About Us

Mill Lane School is a thriving one-form entry primary school in the village of Chinnor, set at the foot of the Chiltern Hills escarpment. It opened in September 1974 to serve the rapidly expanding population of the growing village. We have created a happy, secure and stimulating environment in which children can develop as unique individuals and where they develop emotional, social and academic skills needed to become independent and responsible members of the community. We are small, community school where staff know every child well ensuring children feel secure in the knowledge that they are valued and significant members of our community. The school is set in very extensive grounds and we are keen to further develop our outside spaces to maximise the learning opportunities for future generations of children. 

Our Vision

Mill Lane School aims to provide an outstanding education through positive experiences in which all children grow in knowledge, skill and confidence. Each child’s journey through the school is planned to be purposeful, challenging and fun by providing educational excellence in teaching and learning. A stimulating, interactive and creative curriculum is intended to develop a love of learning, the relevant knowledge and skills for later life and to nurture curiosity, reflection and self-belief. Through the benefit of its small size, governors, staff and parents are able to share a passionate commitment to the uniqueness of individuals, aiming to unlock the potential that lies within each child. The school is steadfast in its responsibility to provide a safe and broad learning environment in which care, acceptance, cooperation and respect provide the opportunity for children to become enriched, responsible learners and contributors to the school and the wider community.        

Growing, thriving, flying… this is our vision.

 Learning Outdoors: what do we already offer?

We aim to use our outdoor spaces all the year round and anyone walking past the school grounds during school hours will inevitably hear activities taking place outdoors – not just at playtimes, but also during lesson time when the grounds open themselves up as exploration areas for many subjects, including maths, creative arts, science and literacy. Currently we have an extensive school field which is well used in the summer months for sport and play activities, including a three day campout in May. We also have two permanent orienteering trails around the school site which provide cross-curricular outdoor learning opportunities. 

We are also very lucky to have a large, wooded Forest School area at the bottom of our school field which is run by two fully qualified Forest School teachers, delivering weekly sessions for all children from Reception to Year 6. Here the children can climb trees, whittle, cook on a camp fire, build dens, play in mud kitchens and so much more. It is an adventurer’s paradise and our children tell us that they love it – even on the coldest and wettest days of the year! 

Our Ambitions for the Future 

‘Three Generational Learning’

Many schools are not even able to offer the experiences and opportunities described above but we are extremely lucky to have such an extensive site and adjoining the school we have a currently untapped wild area, 3400 square metres (0.8 acres) in size, known fondly to all as ‘Gruffland’. This land was originally intended for an infants’ school, but as this was never built, it soon became home to ‘Gruff’, a billy goat who was the school’s resident ‘pet’ between 1975 and 1990. Such was the uniqueness of the school owning a goat, Gruff is still fondly remembered by grandparents of our current pupils – three-generational learning in its truest sense! Since then, the area has served as an environmental area but it has gradually become overgrown and rundown to the point of becoming unusable and not providing the benefits to the young people it once did.

We therefore want to reinvigorate this potentially thriving natural space and use it to the very best of its potential, providing a rich resource for learning. As we approach our milestone fiftieth birthday in September 2024, we feel that this is the perfect time to redevelop the space and give future generations wonderful memories of getting close to nature. 

We intend to bring Gruffland back to life over the coming months, as a permanent legacy of our fiftieth birthday celebrations. These are the areas that we would like to add to our outdoor space:

 

1) Goats return to Mill Lane –A School Mini-Farm

More than ever it is recognised that animals in schools can support learning, improve behaviour and have many therapeutic benefits in relation to mental health. Pygmy goats are known to be excellent examples of school ‘pets’ and we intend to create a school farm enclosure for at least one resident pair of goats which will be cared for by the pupils and allow children to have first-hand experiences of farming and agriculture right on the school site. By returning goats to the school we will also be paying homage to the first 50 years of innovation and wonder that Mill Lane has provided. 

2) A Sensory Garden

For some children, the hustle and bustle of a classroom environment can often be overwhelming. Sensory gardens have become increasingly popular for their benefits in both providing a calming, immersive environment but also as inclusive spaces that stimulate the senses, which has clear learning benefits. Our sensory garden trail will follow dedicated woodland pathways, emerging at clearings among visually stimulating scented plants, textured sculptures, soundscapes and more. 

3) Storytelling Area

Classrooms don’t need to have four walls! So many stories and adventures take place outdoors in the wild. By immersing children in beautiful surroundings, where they can experience the outdoor environment first-hand, learning takes on a whole new level. Our story-telling area will focus on a circle with log seating and a fire pit for toasting marshmallows and keeping warm in colder weather. On the edge of this will be an outdoor library with sheltered seating area, and a gazebo for reading in the shade. It will be a place that story-tellers and readers alike will thrive in the natural surroundings. 

4) Rewilding Area

In the current age, the preservation of ecology and natural habits is so vital for future generations. This is why we will be handing nearly 700 square metres of land back to nature in the form of a rewilding area, which we hope in time will become an outstanding wild meadow where wildlife will thrive, unhindered by human activity. 

5) Den Building Area

We hope that providing an area in which children can build creatively with natural materials will help develop the teamwork, resilience and ingenuity of our pupils- which are all valuable lifelong attributes. We hear too often that children do not play outside as much as they used to and we hope that these experiences in school will reignite a passion for the outdoors within our young people. 

6) Kitchen Garden

Sustainability is a by-word for our generation, but we often hear that the eating habits of people today are far from sustainable. We want to change this mindset, and in our kitchen garden all of the children will be involved in growing crops which will then be used both in the school kitchen and as healthy playtime snacks. The garden will also have its own composting plant, where food waste from the school will be regenerated into compost which will help keep our plants healthy: a valuable first-hand experience of sustainability for our young learners. 

7) Pond Area

We are already lucky to have our own pond, but it is currently underused and overgrown due to the impracticalities of the current enclosure. We therefore intend to make the surroundings safer and more practical, with storage for scientific equipment nearby. Then we hope it will once more become a haven for pond life which will provide huge learning opportunities for everyone. 

8) Woodland Classroom

On the edge of our woodland area, we currently have a large brick cupboard, which is approximately 28 square metres in size. It is in the perfect position to function as an outdoor classroom which can be used as an exploration base for all of the outdoor activities described above. Currently, it has no windows or power supply, but with the addition of these and a bi-folding door directly into the woods it will be an enormous asset to the outdoor learning space and allow activities to carry on throughout the year, even in the worst of our British weather!

Can you help?

Our project is ambitious but aims to safeguard the future of our natural spaces for generations to come while providing incredible learning experiences and lifelong memories. Although the immediate beneficiaries will be the pupils of Mill Lane School, we will extend the use of our outdoor facilities to the wider community, including our two neighbouring pre-schools and community groups, such as the ‘Forget me knot’ club which provides support for people suffering with dementia. Financially, we expect the first phase of the project to cost around £15,000 but this involves us doing lots of the manual work ourselves. We would therefore be indebted to anyone who is able either to contribute towards raising the necessary funds, donating much needed materials or providing time as a volunteer. Please get in touch with us! We would love to hear from you. Thank you.