Broxfield is a lowland mixed farm (668 acres) near to the coast of Northumberland just north of Alnwick. It is a commercial modern farm with a mixture of cereal crops, suckler beef cows and sheep. The farm is currently undergoing conversion to organic status.
David Thompson has been welcoming groups of school children to his farm since 2000, as well as organising visits to other local farms through his work with Country Trust in the north-east. Most visits to Broxfield are in the summer term, and involve children from primary schools and special schools.
A visit to Broxfield involves doing a range of different activities in the woods and with the animals (see below). The activities are tailored to meet the needs of the children and their teacher, but there is always a focus on allowing pupils to experience freedom by exploring in small groups and to have a sense of achievement.
The feeling of freedom is particularly important with pupils from special schools. The opportunity for severely autistic children to be allowed ‘to do their own thing in the middle of a big field or in the woodland’ has been a much-valued experience.
Morning: Learning in the woods
Afternoon: Learning about the animals/crops
Treasure hunt for hidden animal pictures
Scavenger hunt for feathers, acorns etc.
Sensory and imaginary games like forest perfumes, sound maps and bark rubbings
Seeing sheep and cows and learning about their bodies and how they are looked after
Feeding the pony
Finding out how crops grow and how wheat becomes bread
David Thompson sees the benefits of a visit to Broxfield in terms of:
• Discovery – the children are able to experience a very different environment with new smells, sights, sounds and ways of life
• Freedom – the freedom that you can give children in the safe spaces on the farm such as in middle of a big field is quite unique, especially for the special school pupils
• Curriculum – there are a huge range of links to the key stage 1 and 2 curricula, such as growing plants, contrasting locations, habitats, food webs/chains and animals.
One way in which schools are helped to get the most out of their visit is by David going to schools before their first visit and talking with staff about the activities on the farm in connection with their curriculum requirements.
T: 01665 577216