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The Willow School

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 The Willow School


When The Chelsea Group of Children opened in 1997,  the ideology of the school was based on research in Project Zero in the graduate school of education at Harvard University. The Project took a cognitive view of the arts, viewing artistic activity as involving mental processes fully as powerful and subtle as those used in the sciences. Not only did children learn basic tools of developmental thinking while engaged in making art, but the act of being engaged in an activity rich in language and sensory experience enhanced their learning opportunities.


From the early days at Chelsea Group, the teaching was dynamic, experiential, and full of sensory stimulation. Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences were guiding us through creating learning activities for all the ways in which children learn.


Musical-rhythmic and harmonic.










What we discovered was the likelihood a child would maintain longer and more rewarding periods of engagement when we presented more ways for him to learn. Of all the ways through which a child learns, nature offered us the best opportunities for prolonged, productive, and authentic experiences. 


Engagement seems to us to be the key in teaching all children, but is especially important and challenging for the special needs child, so in 2007 we engaged Dr Dawn Sanders to lead us in a 2 year project of teaching through nature, which our experience had shown us was the most engaging environment, offering a diverse range of new experiences and learning opportunities not available indoors.


Children experienced the curricula in a way that made sense to them in a context that was meaningful. We also found the learning to be more joyful, identifying with living organisms and their environments could sometimes change perspectives or encourage empathetic understanding.


Young children learn through their senses, and through movement and sensory experiences provide the essential first hand experience of the world. We learn about a place by touching, feeling, seeing, smelling, hearing it and responding emotionally. The connection between our senses and emotions can remain powerfully evocative throughout our lives.

 Helen Tovey of Roehampton University in her book 2007 Playing Outdoors


The Willow School, set to open in early 2020, will be a school in which the national curriculum will be taught in and through the natural environment. Whilst it is our intention to teach children about nature we will also teach maths, literacy, science, history, geography and respect for the environment and each other by using the tools in nature to provide sensory experiences that stimulate the whole body so children learn through their senses and through movement.


Therapist will work with children outdoors, children will freely experience sliding rolling, spinning, jumping, whirling, turning, and swinging in relation to the ground and trees and plants; this awareness is central to balance and posture and to all spatial awareness. Pushing, pulling stretching, hanging stimulate the proprioceptive sense of awareness. The tactile experiences of grass, bark, water, stones, wind and leaves enables the child to interpret their environment through touch.


All these experiences will be accompanied by a vast range of descriptors. Language will be rich and real throughout the day. 


To fully develop the mutual benefits and connections between Chelsea Group and The Willow School, we will be pursuing certification to become a Recognised Forrest School Provider in London. The synergy will offer both schools new perspectives and experiences in Project Teaching and Learning.  


Opening The Willow School is the next logical and exciting step for The Chelsea Group of Children.