Interview: Alison Latta and Debbie Simmers

Friday, March 22, 2013

Owners of Woodland Outdoor Kindergartens in Glasgow

What is a nature kindergarten?

The difference between our nursery, which is for threeto five-year-olds, and other outdoor nurseries is that we're in a city environment in peaceful woodland, right in the centre of Glasgow in Pollok Country Park. We do have indoor accommodation as well at a local church hall. We start the day there and then we take a minibus every day to the woods, about two miles away, so that the children are outdoors from 9.30am-4.30pm. There's only been a few times when we've had to go indoors. All the children dress appropriately and there's natural shelter from trees and we use tarpaulins for both wet and sunny weather.

If children need a nap we have hammocks they can sleep in. We don't provide meals - parents provide a packed lunch and snacks and we eat outside. We take water in a jerry can, so that children can wash their hands with soap and water.

What are the benefits of learning outdoors?

When we started the nursery in 2009 we weren't sure whether it would take off. Parents like it because it's something different for children and most parents understand the benefits of outdoor education. It boosts children's emotional intelligence and teamwork and is very much child-led. Most children come for two days a week and some go to other nurseries and do this as something different.

The nature kindergarten is growing in popularity across Scotland, as we increase our understanding of the benefits that this type of education offers our children. Research shows that children learning in this environment tend to adopt a more healthy active lifestyle, are less prone to infection and show increased self-confidence. They also demonstrate excellent practical problem-solving, risk-assessing and co-operation skills.

And now you're moving into offering training?

We are very excited about the series of courses and workshops that we will be delivering to early years professionals and other like-minded individuals. The courses, which start in April, will allow other professionals to gain an insight and understanding of different approaches to teaching and learning using the outdoors. The workshops will help practitioners to appreciate how different curriculum areas can be successfully delivered in the outdoor learning environment.

We've learned a vast amount over the last few years and are keen to pass on the passion, knowledge and understanding that our team has developed. The team at Woodland OUtdoor Kindergartens has significant experience in child-led learning and is led by Hilary Long who is a qualified teacher with over 10 years' experience.

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