AN OUTDOOR classroom costing around £70,000 has opened at Hengistbury Head with an aim to “inspire” students to a greener way of life.

The new Discovery Den is a joint venture between Kingston Maurward College and BCP Council – benefitting from a £70,000 allocation of funds from the Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) for the visitor attraction.

Using the Den, schools and colleges will be able to run activities in the surrounding environment to encourage positive physical and mental health. The facility also offers innovative activities such as the use of augmented reality.

Luke Rake, Dorset LEP board member and Kingston Maurward College principal said the project will “encourage a huge number of students to visit and gain a greater understanding of nature in the area”.

The outdoor classroom is an accessible structure built from two clad shipping containers, with a connected deck area. The building provides a secure and sheltered meeting point for student groups and for the wider public to run learning and lifestyle activities such as drawing, yoga and group counselling sessions.

Kingston Maurward teacher and former Hengistbury Head ranger Brian Heppenstall initiated the project. He said: “We hope that by using the Discovery Den people, and especially children, will care for nature in their garden, local park or the school playing fields.

“It will be a great space for schools to run teacher-led visits, while families and community groups can run extracurricular activities such as bug hunting or pond dipping at weekends or evenings – safe in the knowledge there is a dry space to escape the British weather.”