Our Nature kindergarten ethos derives from various outdoor learning philosophies and practices including Forest school, Forest Kindergarten, Beach School, Nature School and Te Whariki, but essentially it is all about outdoor learning and being in nature.
Our Nature Kindergarten’s will have outdoor spaces that due to their size/location/access to outdoor spaces, provide a wealth of opportunity to access nature throughout the day or daily access to natural spaces locally that they can utilise, such as forest, woodland or beaches.
Freidrich Froebel, an early pioneer of the Nature Kindergarten, was the inspiration for early years teachers to develop a provision built on using nature and natural environments and opportunities for young children to develop and learn outdoors in Denmark.
Froebel said “play is the highest expression of human development in childhood for it alone is the free expression of what is in the child’s soul.”
Today Scandinavian countries have some of the best educational outcomes in the world and their focus on nature, outdoor play and movement is a significant part of this.
We believe that children learn best in natural spaces, experiencing all kinds of weather and being in the fresh air. The learning process facilitates more than just knowledge-gathering, it helps children to develop socially, emotionally, spiritually, physically and intellectually.
The non-structured, learning environment allows children to lead their own learning through exploration and discovery with supportive adults scaffolding the learning that takes place. The same space can provide new learning experiences each day depending on the seasons, the weather and wildlife that have visited. For example a shower of rain can turn dry earth to mud allowing a completely different learning experience and challenge for children in the same space.
Our Nature Kindergartens aim to:
Each of our Nature Kindergarten Settings have a Nature Kindergarten Leader who is passionate about being outdoors in nature and understands how to maximise natural spaces for teaching and learning. Their role is to ensure the Nature Kindergarten ethos is prevalent in daily practice and the setting is continually reflecting and evolving in the area.
The Nature Kindergarten Leader will:
The beauty of natural environments is that every outdoor space is as unique as the children themselves and the same space will change its features throughout the year. However to ensure we include specific aspects of the Nature Kindergarten we should see the following features in the spaces children use:
Everyone involved in Nature Kindergarten will be expected to dress for whatever the weather throws at them, removing any barriers to spending time immersed in nature. In addition, children must feel comfortable and able to move their bodies freely as they need to when walking, running, jumping, experimenting, collecting, making, creating, climbing trees, building dens, discovering wildlife, gardening and sitting round a campfire.
We will provide outdoor waterproof suits for children, and you could help us by providing comfortable clothing that children can get dirty, wellington boots and sun hats. Please speak to your manager if this will be difficult for you.
Being outdoors in nature [naturally] provides opportunities for children to encounter uncertainty, unpredictability, hazards and risks. We actively promote these experiences as they give children the opportunity to think critically, take initiative, plan and problem-solve; positively impacting their development, wellbeing and overall health. However, this does not mean we are deliberately putting children in harm’s way. We will utilise opportunities [that arise] to raise children’s awareness of risk and danger and teach them how to assess it and overcome it, equipping them with the vital life skills needed to keep themselves and others safe in the unpredictable world outside of the Nature Kindergarten setting.
Opportunities for children to manage their own risks will be provided in a controlled environment. This means adults will have already thought about the potential risks, making steps to minimise those where the extent of the risk could outweigh the benefit if not well prepared for or supervised.
Our Nature Kindergarten’s will use our Risk Versus Benefit Assessments to measure the potential risks of equipment, space and activities within their outdoor area, against the potential benefits to children’s learning, health and wellbeing. Where a risk is deemed too high, steps will be taken to reduce the risk by action, preparation and review. Please ask to see the nursery’s Risk Versus Benefit Assessments when they are completed if you would like to know more. The intention is not to make sensible decisions about risk whilst teaching children about health and safety.
We will ensure that there is: