Since 2014, Classroom in the Woods has given over 6,000 young people the opportunity to learn in the great outdoors, inspiring school children from nursery-age to Year 6, in both their school and everyday lives. Grace Robinson moved back from London to join the family business, helping to develop the family’s Ashby-cum-Fenby working farm into a unique, rural educational experience.

What is the mission of Classroom in the Woods?

The mission of the Classroom in the Woods is pretty simple. We want to bring learning back alive. We want children to be surrounded by nature, learning in a hands-on environment. Learning about Florence Nightingale, for example, becomes far more real when the children are actually out in a field attempting to build a field hospital, making stretchers and carrying their wounded soldiers. It has far more meaning than in a typical classroom environment. We want children to be able to access the outdoors but in a controlled environment, which always has education as its main focus. It is amazing how many children have no idea where their food comes from and that the main purpose of a farm is to produce food. I hope that children remember coming to the Classroom, and that it inspires them in some way, either in School or in their everyday lives.

Why did you want to come back to Grimsby and join the family business?

I had the best three years in London at University, but I always knew I would come home. If it taught me one thing, it’s that I’m a country/seaside girl at heart and being in a city really wasn’t for me. Grimsby is home for me and having grown up in a family business based in the heart of Grimsby, I love this place and it has something really special. We are so lucky to be so close to Cleethorpes, and yet the Lincolnshire Wolds are just a stone’s throw away. I love seeing the world, but coming home is always the best feeling! Working with your family is hard, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. When I was away at Uni, I was on the phone everyday finding out everything that was happening with the business and I felt like I was missing out! I came home and got a job with a Freight Forwarding company in Stallingborough which I loved, but I knew it wasn’t for me forever. It was great to experience working for someone else, which I think everyone needs to do, but it made me so grateful for being able to return to the family business and I don’t think there is any better feeling than working for yourself.

 

What is your favourite part about what you do?

That’s an easy question! Walking into the woods when we have a group of children with us at the classroom, and they are off doing an activity. Listening and watching the magic that being outside seems to create. I can’t really describe it but it’s just really special. The way the children seem to communicate with each other, and their excitement when they achieve something they didn’t think they could. Richard and I always stand next to the coach saying goodbye when they leave, and they will quite often say ‘that was the best day ever!’ I don’t think that will ever get old. If 30 children leave the Classroom with 30 different stories going home to parents, I always think if we can inspire just one of them, it will make it all worthwhile.

 

Why is it important for children in the Grimsby area to experience the outdoors and have access to forest schools?

The majority of children do not have enough interaction with the outdoors. It amazes me how many children come to us at the Classroom from Grimsby who have never been in a wood before. We are six miles from the town centre, which is pretty hard to believe when you’re in the middle of a field by the stream! It is so peaceful and beautiful, and you could be anywhere in the world. Children spend too much time indoors using technology, and it has been proven that this is significantly impacting their mental health. There are areas in Grimsby where children are living in poverty, and this should not define them. If they come to the Classroom, we can work with them to highlight what they can achieve and that they have the capabilities to do anything! Sometimes it’s the simple things, we often just let the children run in a field which they never usually have the opportunity to do, and they love it. Richard has worked with small groups of children that may be struggling in School, for example with literacy, and that has had some remarkable results. Not every child can work in a typical classroom environment, not every child can achieve top test results, and that is okay. I hope what we do at the Classroom and outdoor learning in general can work its way into the curriculum and it becomes part of every day school life.