Passion is lifted from the earth itself by the muddy hands of the young, it travels along grass-stained sleeves to the heart – Richard Louv
Mud Pie Academy was setup to splatter children’s education and community spaces with freedom, creativity and messiness in a variety of outdoor settings. We are practitioners with backgrounds in Forest School, storytelling and art and we believe in the power of creative play to boost confidence and improve learning.
Meet the team! We are Hayley Spann and Anna Clough and here are our stories:
I first started working with children in a stark-white classroom in Mexico reeling off grammar rules. Although I enjoyed the challenge of the spontaneity that working with children entailed, the work just didn’t align with my values and I left after a short period. I continued doing community work abroad that involved working with refugees, building community, developing alternative currencies and environmental work. Over time it became apparent that doing community work in a place where you are not well-rooted is unsustainable because social change is often small and slow so I made the choice to go back to my Mancunian roots.
I dove straight back in, taking a course organised by the Transition Movement for young adults to help them find “right livelihood”, particularly focused on finding work that helps aid the transition to a less fossil-fuel addicted society, grounded in community. It was very much self-directed and it took me down many different paths; community gardening (I set up ‘Little Diggers’ which is a free family club), traditional oral storytelling and eventually it led me to Forest School. Finally, I had found a way to work with children in exactly the kind of way and context that I feel comfortable in; kindling both a curiosity and a love of nature in children, as well as developing their personal resilience and creativity in beautiful outdoor settings.
The biggest challenge I have found with Forest School is the associated costs make it difficult to access for some families- particularly the ones in the inner city areas I live in where a bit of vitamin ‘N'[ature] certainly wouldn’t go amiss. That’s what I hope to change and I’m glad to have found a team of people who feel the same.
My work with children more of less began when I was employed as an artist on Roots and Wings, a community arts in health and education project, based in a primary school in Chickenley, a socio-economically deprived area of Dewsbury, West Yorkshire. Here I learnt how providing alternative learning and development opportunities to children can raise aspirations, encourage effective thinking and increase self esteem.
I have since been involved, as a community arts worker, in various school and community projects across the UK, with organisations such as Haltwhistle Film Project, teaching film and animation techniques. Emergency Exit Arts, co facilitating lantern making workshops. And The Roby Community centre, facilitating creative workshops including willow weaving, sculpture, banner making, and recycled art. Recently I have been facilitating creative and movement based activities for the elderly / those with dementia in a care home setting.
I also do independent art commissions, where I am passionate about creating high quality design for grassroots projects, individuals and organisations. I have done a variety of commissions from interior wall art to sign painting, illustration and poster design.
Alongside creativity, I have always highly valued the importance of spending time in nature, and the mental and physical benefits it can offer. Through Mud Pie Academy my aim is to further explore Forest School / it’s ethos and combine this with my experience in community arts. I am firm believer in Mud Pie Academy’s mission to make outdoor learning opportunities available to all children, especially those in the inner city who can’t always access nature so readily.