The Magdalen Project is a residential organic farm and education centre on the banks of the River Axe on the Dorset-Somerset border. Its 130 acres includes a mixed small holding with chickens, sheep, cows and organic vegetables, along with recycled and forest gardens, river frontage, woodland areas and wildlife ponds.
For over fifteen years, The Magdalen Project has hosted visits from schools, universities, businesses, environmental groups and others. It aims to be ‘a vibrant, inspirational environment that is both a resource for learning and a place to experience’. The farm buildings have been converted into a multi-purpose eco-friendly centre which includes seminar and teaching rooms, a dining/meeting hall and accommodation for up to 36 people.
The Magdalen Project caters for primary, secondary and special school groups and seeks to provide all students with practical opportunities to develop ‘a deeper understanding of sustainable development and a greater appreciation of natural and rural heritage’. As can be seen below, the focus of activities will vary with different age groups and needs.
Singing around a camp fire
Building shelters in the wood
Bread and cheese making
Ecological adventure walks
Art and sculpture
Helping on the farm
The Magdalen experience
Survival in the wild
Rivers and streams
Renewable energies and sustainability
Farming and the future
Maps and mapping
Together we stand, divided we fall - team building
River channel and floodplain management
Water quality, ecosystems and agriculture
Woodland ecosystems and habitats
Weather, microclimate and energy
Coastal processes and coastal zone management
Rural settlements - past present and future
Changing agricultural systems
All activities, though, are characterised by a strong emphasis on learning by doing (‘incidental learning’), making cross-curricular links and sharing responsibilities such as emptying the compost buckets. Gyles Morris, the Project’s director, describes how staff concentrate on ‘taking specific issues and breathing passion and creative education into them’.
Magdalen’s 95 per cent return booking rate for school groups provides some indication of the satisfaction levels amongst course participants. One benefit frequently noted by teachers is the way in which the experience enables students to express themselves and engage in ways that are not possible in the classroom setting. There are also very significant social benefits in terms of group dynamics, respecting one another and learning to work together in teams. This can be particularly valuable for children who are not seen as successful learners in the formal education context.
Teacher learning is another important focus in terms of the opportunity to observe and get to know students in a different light and to pick up ideas and information for use in school. The Magdalen Project also provides in-service training for beginning and experienced teachers both at the centre and in schools.
The Magdalen Project
T: 01460 30144