‘The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why’. Mark Twain

Last winter I was invited to take part in a project at the Eastbrook Primary Academy in Southwick, West Sussex. I was asked if I could provide them with a space that the students could use as a reading and creative area in their library which is a large room that has a fair amount of through traffic, especially between lessons. For me the answer was to permanently attach a yurt to the wall and leave it without a canvas so that the teachers and students could cover and decorate it themselves. Because the yurt was only for use indoors and would not have to stand up to the vagaries of the British weather I was able to be more creative with some of the structure, such as the door and and where the yurt attaches to the wall. The cost of the yurt included some short lessons with the students during its installation and in future I would like to draw this out to also include some instructional lessons where the students get an opportunity to see how I take the yurt from freshly cut saplings to finished structure.

Having returned to the school a couple of months after the yurt was delivered to see the space in action and in particular how it is functioning now it is decorated, I am really pleased to see what a success it has become. The whole experience of working with Eastbrook has been very gratifying for me and I would like to thank all the children and staff, be they teachers, administrators or caretakers, for making the whole project so pleasurable and for contributing so much in helping to make it work as well as it did from beginning to end.

Since finishing the yurt, Eastbrook and I have continued our relationship with two more days of courses for the students later in the spring just as the elder trees were coming into bloom. The idea was to take some of the short lessons I had with the students during the yurt’s installation and turn them into a longer session with the goal of explaining to them the value of trees and the products we get from them both historically and in the modern setting. Judging from the feedback from the children and teachers at the time as well as conversations we have had since it would appear that the experiment was very definitely a success.

Whilst I’m no longer making yurts or teaching yurt making I am continuing to work with Eastbrook as I am proud of what we have achieved together and hopefully will continue to achieve together in the future.

‘At Eastbrook Primary we decided we wanted to make our library look a bit different. Our first thought was to create some simple reading tents, that was until Matt got involved! Instead of several small spaces we now have an incredible reading yurt. The children were able to watch the structure being completed and installed before their eyes with Matt explaining the different timber and processes he was using and why. We now have a functional and aesthetically pleasing space that we are all very proud of and that our students love using. If anyone is thinking of building a wooden structure either indoors or outside in the grounds and would like to see what Matt has done for us, you would be welcome to visit our school and see our yurt.’
Julia Sherlock (Headteacher)

‘When some of our pupils were away on residential trips we asked Matt to lead some sessions for the children who were still in school. He came up with a whole programme based on the elder tree, its history, mythology and the products we get from it. The children were given a period of question and answer about trees in general, a chance to taste elderflower cordial as well as being able to make pencils from elder branches and charcoal and use them to complete art work. Matt planned the sessions himself and was able to engage all the children. We will be booking him for next year.’
Kristen Fawcett (Year 6 teacher)