Hollie's story

The majority of my teaching experience has been with EYFS & KS1

But during my time as a Learning Mentor and cover teacher I worked primarily with KS2. My love of outdoor learning is fuelled by a combination of passion for teacher wellbeing and inclusion for all children.

Whilst training to be a teacher, I experienced CFS (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) and it's my journey with my health that led me to outdoor learning.

This illness returned twice during my teaching career. The first time I decided to leave the small, village school I was at and move roles to a Learning Mentor which gave me a holistic view of education but I couldn't keep out the classroom for long. I was soon cover teaching way more than fulfilling my mentoring role and so as my health had improved I returned to the classroom again.

My new role was Year 1 teacher in a large, three form entry school. It was here that I fell in love with hands-on learning as I developed a continuous provision approach and watched with awe as children who were previously disengaged, build confidence in their own ability. Sadly, the Senior Leadership Team decided to return to a more formal approach and I was heart-broken. My workload started to increase and the lightbulbs that had been switched on in the children, through play-based learning, were starting to flicker. At the same time my own health began to crumble once again.

The children in my class struggled with concentration, poor motor skills and communication. All the while I was struggling with my energy, clear thinking and sensitivity to noise. I knew the children needed hands-on learning but play was no longer an option. So I decided to embrace outdoor learning!

We began with phonics, making it physically active, weaving motor skill activities in with new sounds, blending and segmenting skills. It was an instant hit!

The children were all engaged and lit up again! I also noticed that my own health felt more manageable after spending time outside. There was only one thing for it - take as much learning outside as possible!

This is the beauty of curriculum outdoor learning. My SLT were happy because I was delivering teacher led learning and National Curriculum objectives. I was happy because the outdoors gave me an energy boost and refreshed my mind. The children were happy because they were having fun and enjoying learning once more. Outdoor learning met everyone's needs!
The academic needs of the children were wide and varied at this school but outdoor learning enabled me to reach all of them single-handed, in one lesson, through one approach.

Since then I've dived deep into our connection to nature as humans and how it can benefit our brains. Spending time outdoors is a way of life for me, so when I decided to leave the classroom and Jenny pitched the idea of setting up Alfresco Learning, of course I couldn't resist. Now I love visiting different schools and showing other educators how the outdoors supports children. It never ceases to amaze me how children who struggle to sit still and listen are engaged outdoors; those with over-powering energy can run; children who lack self-belief develop the courage to try.

But my main drive for running this company is supporting wellbeing.

Now I'm a Mum, I hope to teach my daughter the ways in which nature helps to build a foundation of health, so that she is equipped with that knowledge for whatever her journey in life turns out to be. So most weekends and evenings you can find us out on a family adventure, exploring the green spaces around where we live.