The Story-making Project at Great Dixter

Children from three local primary schools worked with a puppeteer and outdoor practitioner/storyteller to explore the gardens and woods of Great Dixter through a succession of creative activities. These ranged from cooking foraged food over a fire to creating stories through exploring natural surroundings.

Who was involved

  • A cluster of three East Sussex primary schools with lead teachers, Brede Primary School, Beckley CE Primary School , Northiam CE Primary School) different year groups from reception (Beckley) through to Year 5 (Northiam)
  • Creative practitioners: Rachel Bennington (storyteller and outdoor practitioner) and Persephone Pearl (puppeteer)
  • Great Dixter Education Officer, Catherine Haydock


How can creative exploration of the landscape be used to sensitise children to the local environment, fostering curiosity about sustainability and promoting links between schools, Great Dixter and the local community?


  • To develop positive relationships with the local community, particularly with schools and families
  • To investigate how creative exploration of the landscape could enthuse children and make them more sensitive to and more curious about their local environment
  • To pilot ways of working with schools through the new Education centre
  • To provide CPD to the Great Dixter Education Officer


Children were encouraged to view the gardens as special and magical; this encouraged them to respect and value their surroundings. They developed their literacy skills, their creative skills, their collaborative skills and their confidence.

Teachers learnt new skills around outdoor learning, ranging from fire-making and woodland skills to new ideas for using storytelling in the classroom.

The project has helped to create a future schools programme at Great Dixter and to foster positive relationships with the local community.  Great Dixter now has a range of imaginative approaches for engaging schools and families.

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It’s different. At school you don’t learn about puppets and get to play. Being outside gave me a different view.


We have in place a strong plan for how we are going to sustain the spirit of this work – it’s too important not to!

Head teacher, Beckley Primary School

The creative approach sat really well with the Dixter style of working and the range of activity undertaken opened my eyes and improved my skills.

Great Dixter Education Officer