Treehouse outdoor classrooms for forest schools

At the Hideout House Company, we always enjoy a healthy amount of enquiries from schools who are looking for something a bit different to have either in their playground or more usually in their forest school area. The enquiry is also typically for some sort of a shelter or outdoor classroom where the children can congregate or be taught lessons whilst in an outside environment.

Our product range does already encompass a wide variety of buildings and structures for this type of application but treehouses for schools seem to always add a bit of extra interest. I think it is because it is that bit more exciting than something which is floor mounted. Imaginations can work overtime.

We have therefore designed an octagonal treehouse outdoor classroom which is basically raised up on elevated stilts. You can have the option of having it fully enclosed and to add that extra bit of mysticism, the windows are in a Gothic, arched style. Or alternatively you could have it open sided like a gazebo with lower level solid infill bevel panels. The roof is an attractive cedar shingle tile roof and it is also possible to have an atrium style roof in order to allow in lots of natural daylight from above.

Underneath it, a rotating tyre swing will hang from the underside of the unit as well an easy access rope ladder leading up to a secret trap door. In forest schools, fire pits are used quite a lot so if a school was wanting to provide for some heating in the treehouse, it is possible to have a wood-burning stove with flue. Children can therefore gather firewood from the wood or forest and then burn it in the stove for extra heat.

The timber used for the external cladding is a wany-edged larch which gives the treehouse the rustic, cabin style look to it. There are three sizes available – namely 3m, 4m or 5m and there is an option too to have internal benching.

For further information, please contact the Hideout House Company on 01865 858982 or email info@hideouthouse.com

www.hideouthouse.com

Break out outdoor classrooms for schools

6m x 4m rectangular outdoor classroom with French doors

We have been asked quite a lot recently to provide outdoor classrooms to be used as “break-out” rooms or as some schools call them, nurture rooms or escape rooms. These are essentially additional spaces where children can be taken out of the melee of the average school day and classroom environment and be given a more personal and intense one-on-one time with teachers and staff. We have found that they need to cater for no more than 15 pupils and staff at any one given time or session.

The reason for having an independent room for this is two fold. The first one being space or should I say lack of it. I have spoken to so many schools who are literally bursting at the seams anyway so there is simply no available room or space to conduct these sessions with pupils – so necessity anyway dictates having something additional sited in the playground or school playing field. Secondly, schools like to have an environment which is out of the main school building anyway as it fosters a sense of calm and re-assurance.

But what sort or type of a building does a school have in this instance? They don’t really want to have a traditional open-sided, gazebo style outdoor classroom (usually octagonal or rectangular) as this limits its use as these rooms need to be used all year round and in all weathers and seasons. A mobile or modular classroom might be too big for this requirement as well and perhaps not affordable in the current financial climate.

This is where our Enclosed outdoor classrooms come into their own as they fall conveniently between the above two options. In the main, they are all below 30m2 so that building regulation approval is not required. They are available in a whole host of sizes and shapes – namely octagonal, rectangular and square – and are manufactured out of cedar with an attractive cedar shingle tile roof. Cedar is a high quality timber (we source our cedar directly from Western Canada where it is grown) so it has numerous advantages over other traditionally used timbers – it doesn’t rot and requires very little, if none, on-going maintenance. Which again saves money in the medium to long term for a school.

Options for these buildings also include insulation, an atrium roof to allow in lots of natural daylight from above, timber sub-frame base, bi-fold doors to the front elevation, eco packages including renewable energy equipment and they are also modular – so within reason, they can easily be adapted for a school’s setting or individual requirements. In the majority of cases, they do not require planning permission as they fall under permitted development rights but a school always need to check first with their local planning authority before proceeding.

They are also typically installed within a week so minimal disruptance to a school’s working week or term. And although we say it ourselves, they do look quite nice!

For further details on our range of break-out or nurture outdoor classrooms, please contact us on 01865 858982 or email: info@hideouthouse.com

www.hideouthouse.com

outdoor classroom with French doors

The Earth Pod Has Landed!

Earlier this year we developed a “pod” for the glamping market through the leisure brand of the Hideout House Company called Superglamp. These have therefore been sold to holiday parks, hotels, upmarket camping and glamping sites up and down the country who rent them out as accommodation units to paying guests and which have become increasingly popular over the past couple of years as the staycation and short break trend in the UK has taken off.

But these pods have also found another use in the educational market where they can be used as an outdoor learning facility, outdoor classroom, outdoor shelter, nurture room, forest school hideout and den and even as a parent waiting shelter!

A couple of these outdoor classroom pods have therefore recently been supplied to a school in Leicestershire who are using them for a whole host of reasons. The school – and of course the children – love the Hobbit style round circular entrance door and it is big enough inside to cater for a full class. Two large round windows also add to creating a fantasy atmosphere and allow natural light to flood in. The other advantage these pods have is that they are pre-manufactured units which are built in the factory and then delivered to a school on the back of a low loader truck. So causing minimal disruption to a school’s day as you can be up and running using the unit the very same day.

There are various options a school can choose from. Firstly there are two roof types, namely artificial grass or timber feather edging. Then if it was to be used all year round in all seasons, there is the option for an electricity connection which is provided via a low voltage mains unit (cable supplied).  Featuring 2 x double sockets, an electric panel heater, LED strip light and deck lights. We are also able to insulate the pod for thermal efficiency if you are choosing this option.

Secured with a traditional door lock to ensure security and provided with a delightful timber effect floor for easy cleaning and maintenance.

Loved by all ages, our “Earth Pod” is destined to make your school environment a special place to be.

For further information, please contact the Hideout House Company on 01865 858982 or email: info@hideouthouse.com

 

The Forest School Outdoor Classroom Pod

outdoor classroom pod

So many schools nowadays have a forest school set up which they either run and operate within their own grounds or they share with another location or facility. It is a great initiative and one I am sure which will only but gain in popularity.

Hence the reason why we have enjoyed recently a significant increase in enquiries for some sort of outdoor shelter and classroom provision for these forest school settings. And we found that a lot of schools want something that is a little bit different….and even mysterious especially if it is going to be sited in an actual woodland. So, as always, we went out to quite a few schools to ask the children what they would like to see in such a building. The Hobbit seemed to come up quite a lot and the ability to be able to move it ultimately.

So we have now supplied our first forest school outdoor classroom pod. In keeping with the mysterious and the Hobbit theme, the pod has some large circular doors to the front and a round circular window to the back. It can also come with two roof types – namely an artificial grass roof (preferable if you want to site the outdoor classroom pod in a green, forest or wood setting) or a more traditional timber closeboard roof.

It can either come as a pre-manufactured unit which is delivered to the school on the back of a low-loader truck and is then either winched or craned into position. The greatest advantage of this method is that the unit can be up and running in the same day. However, if access for the lorry is a problem, then there is the option to build it on site in a modular format. Other options include insulation to the floor, walls and roof and an electrical package if supply is easy enough to get out to the pod (the electrical pack includes lights, heating and power sockets). However ,we are also looking at an “off-grid” system with solar energy providing the power and also having a wood-burning stove in the unit to heat it (the children can do themselves as this is very much part of the whole forest schools ethos and they can collect wood and logs). We are also looking at the feasibility of having some sort of wheels underneath so that it can be literally moved around the school if so required.

For further details on the outdoor classroom pod, please call the Hideout House Company on 01865 858982 or email: info@hideouthouse.com

www.hideouthouse.com

outdoor classroom pod

Pod being delivered on back of transport lorry

Alternative to Temporary Classrooms

enclosed outdoor classroom

We always receive quite a few enquiries from schools who are looking for some sort of temporary classroom solution. Usually it because they are either having to accommodate more pupils over a short (or as is more often an unknown & indefinite) period of time or because some building work is going on and the children need to be temporarily re-located and re-housed.

A lot of schools therefore go down the route of contacting the various companies who supply educational pre-fab buildings which are delivered to site on the back of a truck and then either craned or winched into position. And due to the nature of their build and construction method, they can of course be removed at a later date if so required. If they ever are as from my experience, they tend to stay there for quite some time!

But even if you are electing to have the above on a temporary basis, you will still need to apply for planning permission, will still have to put some sort of base down and run and connect all the services out to the classroom building and will probably have to apply for building regs as well. And then of course, you have the cost of the rental plus the various siting and delivery costs – and if access isn’t great at the school, you will have to pay extra for a crane to lift the unit onto site. It’s worth doing the maths.

But we have an alternative but it might only suit some schools or requirements as the size could be a limiting factor.  We have a range of temporary classroom buildings which are below 30m2 so you don’t need to apply for buildings regs. We are able to install double glazing and insulation into these buildings and can put down a timber sub-frame base as well. We have a range of access doors including both bi-folds (so you can literally open up one side) or attractive French doors. These classrooms are built on site so in the majority of cases, a tricky access is no longer an issue. Typically they are installed within a week so the disruption to the school is minimal and because they are built in a modular panel format, they can easily be taken down again at a later stage and either sold on or be re-sited somewhere else.

And with prices running from £20 – 30K ex VAT for these type of classroom buildings, it might also make quite a viable financial alternative.

Another factor to bear in mind is that when they are no longer required as a temporary classroom, they could be used for a whole host of alternative applications – nurture rooms, extra staff room, community room, a room to rent out to the local community, music or art studio etc. And if that is the case, we might also be able to help you with grant funding.

For further information on our temporary outdoor classrooms, please call us on 01865 858982 or email: info@hideouthouse.com

www.hideouthouse.com

Outdoor Shelters and Eco Hub for Primary School

eco classrooms

outdoor shelter with renewable energy equipment

We have just completed quite an interesting project for a school in South London where we have basically supplied them with an “eco hub” which is designed to be both an outdoor classroom or outdoor shelter but which is also an educational tool to help children learn about and appreciate the environment.

We started working on the project with the school last year and came up with the idea of having a small 3m octagonal shelter which say 15 children could sit in at any one given time. It was to be sited next to the school’s existing gardening and planting area so fitted in very well with the whole overall eco schools ethos of healthy living and renewable energy.

We were easily able to supply a building from our comprehensive range of outdoor shelters for schools as the school specifically wanted one which needed to be both “sideless and floorless”. We did however fit an upper panel to one side of the building as this was going to be used to host the board for the renewable energy system.

On the roof, we have fitted a solar panel (which is made from special materials to easily withstand errant footballs and potential vandalism) and a mini wind turbine which is mounted to the side on a pole. The siting of the outdoor shelter at the school is in a very good position because it is south facing (so plenty of sun and natural light for the solar panel) and is not shielded by any trees which would act as a wind block for the turbine. The energy created by these two items is then stored in a special battery which is mounted (but yet concealed) onto the main control board. This power is then in turn converted into usable electricity via an inverter whereby the children can plug in their laptops, tablets, mobiles etc into the two power sockets – and thereby appreciate 100% green energy powered by the elements!

We have also supplied the school with a special dynamo bike which is fitted into a back A frame holster. When the children pedal the bike, it creates energy via a dynamo system and this feeds into a special charging unit for mobile devices. As above, the children can then charge up their mobile devices through clean energy and good old fashioned pedal power.

Both these renewable energy systems are also actively involving the participation of the school children and therefore this way, they will appreciate how we can easily create clean and green energy which does not pollute the environment without having to burn fossil fuels. And of course, there is a bit of fun involved too.

The school has further plans for future developments along this eco theme including a music system which is powered by renewable energy. And a water butt and roof guttering system which will be retro-fitted to the outdoor shelter so that the harvested rain water can be used to water the planters and beds in the next door gardening facility – which at the moment is a problem as there is no water supply to this area and is beyond the reach of a hose.

The project was funded by Tesco’s Bags of Help community grant.

For further information on our eco outdoor shelters, please contact the Hideout House Company on 01865 858982 or email: info@hideouthouse.com

www.hideouthouse.com

 

Which Outdoor Shelters Are Right For Your School

outdoor shelters for schools

outdoor shelter in school playground

We are all aware of the dangers of harmful UV rays from the sun – especially on young skin – and it is for this primary reason which drives a lot of the sales for our outdoor shelters range of products we offer. Or schools want to be able to use them in all weathers and as this is Britain, we do get our fair share of rain as well so in this instance, think of them as a giant umbrella!

A school really needs to determine first what size they are wanting  – how many children is it for, is it actually going to be covering an existing item in the playground (such as a sandpit for example), is there a space limitation in the playground anyway? These are all determining factors that need to be taken into consideration.

And then of course, the million dollar budget question of how much money do you want to spend? As well as our company, there are of course a lot of organisations offering school outdoor shelters and it can be quite daunting for any teacher or school head to determine who or what is best. But there are three things you need to bear in mind in this instance and these are – quality, quality and quality. I have seen so many cheap shelters over the years and they simply don’t last or adequately do the job they are supposed to. A false economy in my book.

A school then needs to determine as to whether it is just a canopy shelter they are wanting or whether you want to extend out the application to almost have an outdoor classroom set up. And by this I mean benching around the sides, panels for whiteboards or chalkboards, desks and the ability to be able to totally or partially enclose them. You can do this with easy-to-use, roll-down canvas panels for example which also afford you greater protection from the elements when so required.

Within our range, we offer a whole hosts of roof options – namely cedar shingle tiles, felt shingle tiles, canvas and even living sedum. And we have products which are designed for a specific purpose – for example our nature watch hut which allows children to be close and to witness nature at close quarters. Or the living wall tipi where you can grown planters up the side.

For further information, please contact us on 01865 858982 or email: info@hideouthouse.com

www.hideouthouse.com

Entrepreneurial Ways To Help Fund Your School

There was a very interesting article published recently in the Guardian about how schools are having to find alternative – read entrepreneurial – ways of finding extra ways of generating money to help fund their schools and school projects in the face of increased budget cuts.

Of the 1,200 schools polled, a staggering 42% of them were renting out their buildings and facilities to raise extra money, 13% were busy making contacts with local industry and businesses in order to forge on-going partnerships and 10% were opening on-site nursery provisions.

The gist of the article was basically to say that schools now have to find their inner Richard Branson in order to find ways of meeting the financial gaps between what they want/need and what the Government will give them. Although this may sound a little daunting initially, there are some things you can do immediately but be prepared to think creatively and “out of the box”.

Easy ones first – chargeable and paid for before and after school clubs, rent out your school premises for birthday parties, language schools and weddings even. You have to hand an immediate target audience i.e. the parents and the local community who would all be prepared to support the school and fulfill a need or requirement at the same time.

But here’s where I would be a bit more creative. We supply a lot of Outdoor Classrooms to schools which actually we also sell to venues up and down the country to be used as wedding gazebos. The building is exactly the same – usually an octagonal 4m or 5m gazebo – so you could easily apply to your local registrar office for a license to conduct civil service ceremonies on your premises (a lot of private schools are already doing this) and once granted, you could promote yourself as an all encompassing wedding venue. Weddings are undoubtedly big business and we can certainly speak from experience here as we sell a lot of our buildings as wedding gazebos to venues such as hotels, golf clubs, holiday parks etc and they are all doing very well. You can then use the school building for the reception and as you probably have the grounds, you could hire in a marquee too for the better weather months. When you are not using the building as a wedding gazebo, it simply goes back to being an outdoor classroom. Win, win to use business parlance!

Another area I would tap into is fitness or wellness as it is now called. One of our enclosed outdoor classrooms could easily double up as a fitness suite or studio for yoga and fitness classes which could take place outside of school hours. Or we all like to go on courses nowadays so you could hold classes or courses of all descriptions in this building too outside of school hours. And because it is an independent building from the main school, people can easily come and go. And you have the week-ends when there are no children around.

There are even companies who will help a school rent out their buildings and they undertake all of the marketing and handle the bookings in return for a commission. It certainly is the way forward and schools who do embrace this will undoubtedly do well financially – especially as the future does not hold any hope or promises for bigger Government expenditure in the education sector.

The article from the Guardian can be seen on the link below:

https://www.theguardian.com/education/2017/mar/24/school-fundraising-budget-cuts-letting-buildings-survey

For further information on how we can work with your school on raising extra funds, please contact the Hideout House Company on 01865 858982 or email info@hideouthouse.com

www.hideouthouse.com

outdoor classroom used as wedding gazebo

How To Choose Outdoor Classrooms for Your School

outdoor classroms

Outdoor classroom with solid infill and opening/closing louvre panels

We do get approached quite a lot by schools who are interested in having an outdoor classroom for their school playground or forest school area. This initial approach is usually by email where we are just asked for a price for one. But there are so many variables involved before determining a final price that I thought I would put myself in an enquirer’s shoes and put together a list of items which you need to consider in advance.

So, firstly the most important question to ask your self is how many children does it need to accommodate? The usual answer to this is it needs to cater for a class of 30 children but of course some schools do have different class sizes – or if it is for a secondary school for example, more space is required for bigger (read older) children! There is a sort of rule of thumb that you need to allow 450mm of bench space/seating area for each primary school aged child. So in the Hideout House outdoor classrooms, an octagonal 5m or a 5m x 4m rectangular size would easily suffice.

Then you need to be clear as to where you want to site the building within the school curtilage. Factors that you need to bear in mind here are ease of access – how easy will it be for both staff and children to get easy access to it and consider all seasons and weathers. I have seen our buildings sited at the far end of a field which is fine to access in the finer months but when it becomes wet and cold and the ground becomes muddy, it is not so practical.

Distances from boundaries must also be borne in mind as this might have planning permission implications if the building is going to be too near a boundary especially if within a built-up suburban district with lots of neighbours who will be looking out onto it. Usually 5m away from any boundary is enough distance.

When considering the siting area, you need to also be aware of the levels over an area – i.e is there a slope or fall over the area or is it fairly flat and level? We usually put down a timber sub-frame base with skirting so that we can cater for any uneven surface but where the fall is quite significant, this could add to the overall cost. Also need to check if there are any large trees nearby as their roots could have a detrimental effect on the base and building over time. It might also sound like stating the obvious but will the building easily fit into the area if space is tight? We have been on numerous site visits where there was not a hope in hell’s chance of the building we originally quoted for being able to fit in the space it was intended for.

Now that you have decided upon the location and the size, you need to decide what options you would like to have if any. Some of these options could include the following – upper panels to provide for some sort of shade and protection from the elements (in this instance we provide solid infill panels, opening/closing louvre panels, glass or polycarbonate and roll down/up canvas panels), white boards, internal benching and desks and anti-slip grip deck flooring. And then you might want to choose from some eco options we offer – namely a renewable energy piece of equipment which shows children how renewable energy is created from the sun and the wind and a water butt and roof guttering system for rainwater harvesting.

And finally the price. Most companies – like our good selves – will provide a price which includes for delivery and installation. But remember – cheap is not always the best and that is why our outdoor classrooms are manufactured from premium materials which will last and will withstand the daily rigours an average school day will place upon it.

For more information, please contact the Hideout House Company on 01865 858982 or visit www.hideouthouse.com

 

Feature in the i Newspaper

We were recently featured in an article in the i daily newspaper which was talking about creative treehouses and outdoor classrooms in schools. The article mentioned the pedal powered outdoor classroom we installed at a school in South London where the children had to pedal special dynamo bikes to power up a music sound system, disco lights and a bubble making machine.

The article was mainly promoting the fact that we need to start building more engaging outdoor classrooms in schools to entice children to be outside and to actually have fun whilst learning.

The feature can be seen on the below link:

i news article on outdoor learning