"Imagine a world where the lines were harsh and unyielding, the textures were consistent and variation is unheard of. Does it inspire you? Now imagine a place where the carpet changes every day, the ceiling is a myriad of different colours, light, shadow and movement. The feelings and movement completely surround you, sometimes breezy, sometimes cold, others warm. Unexpected wonders fly by, sometimes full of colour and sometimes full of noise and movement. If we really want children to thrive we need to let their connection to nature nurture them." (Nurture Through Nature, Claire Warden 2007)
Mindstretchers opened the first outdoor Nature Kindergarten in Scotland in 2006 with the underlying philosophy of Claire Warden as defined in her book Nature Kindergartens. The enthusiastic implementation of the Nature Kindergarten philosophy has resulted in centres of excellence that are considered sector leading and recognized internationally.
Read our most recent Care Inspectorate report: December 2014.
The Nature Kindergartens offers the best of all worlds to allow children the opportunity to build great childhood memories - a secure natural space inside, a gently challenging outdoor investigative zone which supports young children to develop emotional confidence and skills, and then the wild wood where they can feel the freedom of a fully natural environment. Children from the age of 2 years spend the majority of the day outdoors in all weathers, either in the very naturalistic garden or in the woodlands where they build dens and bird hides using tools such as saws and loppers, make fires to cook their own snacks, climb trees and generally explore the wonders that the woodlands have to offer.
Our Kindergarten aims to:
- provide a safe and stimulating environment in which children can feel happy and secure.
- provide children with a very naturalistic environment indoors, in the garden and in the wild woods where they are encouraged and supported to take risks and become the risk assessors.
- encourage the emotional, social, physical, creative and intellectual development of children both indoors and outdoors.
- promote the welfare of children and encourage their independence through the use of appropriate praise and reassurance.
- encourage positive attitudes to self and others, and develop confidence and self-esteem.
- create opportunities for both indoor and outdoor play which, at times, is challenging both physically and mentally.
- encourage children to explore, appreciate and respect their environment.
- provide opportunities to stimulate interest and imagination.
- extend children's abilities to communicate ideas and feelings in a variety of ways.
- promote a close relationship with parents and the community.
- promote liaison between the Kindergarten and local Primary schools.
Nature provides a range of purposeful contexts that the children can really become involved in. The planting and harvesting of vegetables, the creation of habitat piles to increase biodiversity in the area and the use of natural streams to explore the properties of water all give children tangible ways of working with and in nature to increase their connection to it. Children are able to explore nature in depth in nature time so some investigations might take a year or more.
Children's voices and the process of learning are recorded in Talking and Thinking Floorbooks™, a method developed by Claire Warden. These books are created with the children; they share their ideas and contribute their understanding at their own level. They document group learning experiences and consultations and value each child as an individual recording their progress and understanding throughout. Families are invited to come in regularly and share the Floorbooks with their children. Talking Tubs™ are created by adults and children on subjects that children have initiated to stimulate discussion.
The children all have individual learning stories which include documentation of their learning journeys. Families are encouraged to share these with their child at home and within the extended family.
Working Together with Families - the link between the family and the nursery is of vital importance for the child's progress. Families know their child best and so communication between parents and staff is crucial. Care is taken to involve parents/carers in all aspects of children's progress through:
- being encouraged to look at displays of children's work
- availability of Talking and Thinking Floorbooks™
- recording children's group learning
- contributing items for craft and topic work
- being encouraged to visit the Kindergarten
- parents evenings
Families are kept informed of Kindergarten activities through a Parents' Notice Board, regular newsletters, photographs and letters before specific events. Families also have the opportunity for informal discussion daily when they bring and collect their child. Families are encouraged to help evaluate the service and the opportunities children are being offered.
From Home to Kindergarten - This step is recognised as being of great importance and staff work to ensure that starting nursery is a happy experience for both child and parent. To help ensure a smooth start we offer a flexible settling in programme and are happy to co-operate with parents during this process. A pre-entry visit is arranged to familiarise parents and children with the Kindergarten environment. Every effort is made to ensure that a new child feels welcome and soon has a sense of "belonging" to the Kindergarten.
Each child is an individual - In the diverse world we live in families may have differing values and practices and every child has differing abilities, strengths and needs. During observations, assessments and planning we identify areas for development and next steps for all children. When opportunities present themselves through children's interests we develop opportunities to investigate different cultures and global perspectives and celebrations. We invite families to come in and share various aspects of their culture with the staff and children.
Valuing the work your child creates - we create creators! We celebrate the process of creativity and not just the end product. Children of this age are still developing their gross and fine motor skills and manipulating small tools take time and effort. As an environmentally friendly nursery we encourage transient art and children can produce amazingly intricate displays with natural materials which are photographed to record the process. Creativity may also be displayed in the construction room through complex structures.
Curriculum - Our curriculum is nature based, following the Pre Birth to Three" for children aged 2 to 3 years and the Scottish "Curriculum for Excellence" for children from 3 to 18 years.
The majority of our learning takes place outside where children can explore the concepts and achieve the expected outcomes in a very practical, sensorial, active and contextual manner as recommended in the new curriculum. Our highly consultative environment encourages children to explore curricular concepts using higher order thinking, problem solving, self risk assessing and complex language. Collecting wood for the fire involves estimation, measuring, sorting by complex criteria, science, keeping safe, sharing, taking turns, developing manual dexterity, discussion, etc. Physical development of both gross motor and fine motor control is naturally encouraged in this environment. The skill of our practitioners lies in identifying the learning and recording this in the Talking and Thinking Floorbooks™ as well as the child's learning story book.
Auchlone Nature Kindergarten offers flexible care Monday to Friday. 48 weeks a year.
Monday and Fridays 9am and 3.30pm.
We offer the following sessions:
Long morning: 9am-1.30pm
Short day: 9am-3.30pm
Long day: 9am-5.30pm
Admission policy - due to the demand for places applications are placed on a waiting list and priority will be given to those children who wish to attend for 2 or more sessions per week.
Fees – Invoices are sent out monthly at the end of each month. We Partner Providers with Perth and Kinross council, therefore any child over the age of three can claim PART funding towards their fee’s with Auchlone Kindergarten.
Clothing - the children are outdoors every day for long periods and it is important that they are dressed appropriately. In colder weather children need woollen socks, snowboots and snowsuit. During the warmer weather children would need a sun hat and sun protection cream.
Routines - Routines help children to develop a sense of security and belonging, have a positive effect on their emotional development and happy secure children are more likely to be successful learners. Some children do not feel comfortable coming straight into a group situation so we allow the children the freedom to explore and choose activities to build their confidence. Our gathering times are flexible and respond to the children's interest or needs.
To request an information pack, please contact Danielle Ramsay: Dannie@mindstretchers.co.uk, call 01764 683656.