Mrs Mizen and Miss Allen - A Love for the Outdoors

It’s Children’s Mental Health Week this week, and at West Hill Park we see every day how being outdoors improves children’s wellbeing. We caught up with our Head of Outdoor Learning Mrs Mizen, and Little Griffins Forest School practitioner Miss Allen about why a love for the outdoors is something we cherish here. After Half Term, we will have some exciting news to share with you that will build on this here at WHP - we can’t wait to tell you all about it! 

Mrs Mizen:

My love for being outdoors and camping is rooted in a combination of cherished memories, practical skills, and a deep appreciation for the natural world both on land and on the water. Growing up, I was away with my family camping most weekends, being allowed to explore new woodlands and fields independently with my siblings and family friends. We would build multiple dens, climb trees, play manhunt, and forage for wood to make a campfire. Being outdoors is not just about the activities but also about the shared experiences, laughter around the campfire, and the sense of togetherness. My love for being outdoors and adventurous has also had a positive impact on my adult life, and now I am continuing these cherished memories with my own children and through the work I do.

Spending time outdoors allows us to connect with the natural world, appreciating its beauty. This connection can be deeply fulfilling and provide a sense of belonging. 

Developing skills such as building shelters, starting fires, and other outdoor activities require practical skills. As a child, I learned valuable skills, and as an adult, these skills translate into a sense of confidence in outdoor environments.

Being outdoors allows us to escape the constraints of modern life, giving us a sense of freedom and independence. In a world filled with technology and constant connectivity, the simplicity of nature can be refreshing and liberating.

Another very important reason to spend time outdoors I feel is that it is good for both our physical and mental health. Fresh air, sunlight, and physical activity contribute to improved mood, reduced stress levels, and overall well-being.

With this week’s theme in school being ‘Expressive’, the outdoors provides a canvas for our creative expressions. Whether it's building shelters, creating art from natural materials, or simply finding inspiration in the natural surroundings, being outdoors allows you to express yourself in unique and meaningful ways.

Being outdoors finally is just such great fun and adventurous! Camping and outdoor activities, such as hiking, mountain biking, being on the water, and navigation, offer endless opportunities for exploration and adventure. From hiking new trails to discovering hidden gems in nature, each outdoor excursion and expedition presents a chance to embark on a new adventure and create lasting memories.

Miss Allen:

When I was 19, I remember sitting in the woods with the sunlight streaming through the leafy canopy looking for inspiration on life. It’s a vivid memory that stayed with me until this day. I dreamt of the day I could create a space in nature for children to explore the awe and wonder of the world around them. Whilst I day-dreamed and drifted within my thoughts I heard rustling in the bushes...Before I had time to think, out jumped a deer and bounded across the bracken right in front of me!! It stopped, looked at me,  and I mean really look at me, then off it went again leaping across the forest into the distance! I felt a wave of excitement at what I had just experienced! Then I realised that if I felt that excited about experiencing a moment like this then surely this is how children would feel experiencing things for the first time in nature. My inspiration had literally jumped out at me.

Years later my inspiration still runs strong, and the pathway is paved for my dream to become a reality. Since embarking on my own forest school journey, it has spurred me on to share the wonders of nature with as many children as I can.

Research has shown that humans need a connection to nature in order to stay mentally balanced.  Nature creates an opportunity to escape the stresses of our daily lives and relax in peace and quiet.  Children in a forest school environment experience nature first-hand, they witness the changing of the seasons and get caught up in the wonder those changes bring about. Nature provides every learning opportunity our curriculum requires.  Children harness the power of the outdoors and use it to help them understand science, numeracy, literacy, working as part of a team, problem-solving, risk-taking and so much more. If we remove the walls from children's lives, it creates a space for children that encourages them to explore in awe and wonder.  It provides endless opportunities for investigation and exploration. This taking children's depth of involvement to a whole different level!