As we excitedly move on to new adventures and opening another Kindergarten, we are looking at what we have created, and ensuring that we don’t lose sight of what our vision and dreams are. We continue to strive towards the perfect environment for the children, and within this the most rewarding job for our practitioners. We want our team to feel valued, respected and admired and we celebrate every day how lucky we are to have found such incredible people. We hope that the way we work at Venture means that both adults and children can experience the joy of the natural world, and have the space and time to reflect and let their minds wander. This is when both the adults and children will be most happy and creative. This is what is important to us, not assessments and box ticking but physical and mental well-being. We see the world as the most precious resource for teaching. We also strive not to make the children adapt to fit the mould or the education but instead we are adapting and moulding the education to fit individual children. We give our children the gift of being free to run, laugh, jump, climb and become fully immersed in the joy of living and to experience the awe and fascination of the natural world. So what do we do and how do we achieve this on a daily basis?
Our children are given the time and space to contemplate their environment and to understand their place in a bigger picture. They climb hills, look out to sea, sometimes just watching the waves and seals, chicks in a nest or a worm wriggling across their hand.
We give them challenges that can be easily overcome, thus helping them to feel confident and capable. Children need challenges in order to develop physical, linguistic and cognitive skills. A slippery muddy walk offers so much more than an easy toddle along a level safe pathway, or playing in a more structured environment. They are learning about their environment, the seasons, the effect this has on the earth. They engage with all their senses, the sounds their boots make in the mud, the feel of the earth beneath them, the different smells the rain and mud bring. They watch as their feet make an impression on the earth, exposing leaves, twigs, roots. As they experience these things they are inspired, their language is enriched. They will talk to their friends, developing language and communication skills. They can advise their friends, they need to problem solve, negotiate, make decisions, ask questions, ask for help, offer help.
The random but carefully selected resources available to them outside offer more affordance than “toys”. They are open ended and can have many functions. They engage all of the senses and offer a rich context for exploration and vocabulary development.
The communication and language we witness at Venture is remarkable. The children play in large groups, negotiating and cooperating on levels we have only seen at the very best outdoor kindergartens in the UK and abroad, effectively and creatively using only what they find around them as resources. This in turn means that the relationships between the children are solid and less adult intervention is needed, leaving the children empowered.
There is less pressure, they feel less constrained and more independent. We give them autonomy and allow them to feel in control of themselves, their relationships and their learning.
The advice we give to our team is that if we begin the day with adult focus and support this is how it will be likely to remain for the rest of the day. So we stand back and observe what emerges from the children’s interests. The same goes for conflict between the children. We wait and see what unfolds before stepping in with calm, thoughtful and skilled responses. The children begin to realise that the adults are not always going to get involved. In the long run this results in less conflict and they learn to manage relationships and to negotiate and problem solve. It also means that the power is not taken from either child involved, and both parties are left feeling competent in handling situations and relationships.
The children flourish. We have watched with our own eyes incredible transformations taking place at Venture, and this is achieved simply by standing back.
“Children are like tiny flowers: They are varied and need care, but each is beautiful alone and glorious when seen in the community of peers.” – Friedrich Froebel (1782-1852)
Children are given small achievable tasks and praised carefully by adults. Thet are given responsibility, they are respected and taught to respect one-another.
Because they are not always guided by an adult, they are free to offer their own thoughts and ideas without feeling constrained by adult ideas.
Children at Venture are empowered and find new confidence. We protect their self-esteem and place a huge emphasis on their mental well-being.
A large benefit of the Venture approach is that it leaves the adults happy and relaxed. There is no pressure for the children to achieve a particular activity or to conform in a particular way. There are firm rules and boundaries which have been implemented and are reinforced daily by the children. Everyone has a clear understanding of what these are and why we have them. Children are very tuned in to adults’ moods and this can have a huge impact upon their behaviour. Adults are aware of this and it forms the basis of our practice, with a huge emphasis on respect and empathy.
Self awareness and mindfulness come naturally outside. The emphasis is shifted from ‘I’ to ‘we’ as the children learn about nature and how to share and experience the world. The stress of wanting a particular toy to play with is eliminated. They learn empathy as they discover causes and effects within nature: If you run your hand over that spider’s web it will take it a very long time for the spider to build it again. If you pick those flowers they will not be there tomorrow for us or anyone else to enjoy the next time we walk this path. If you touch this nest it might make the mother bird abandon its babies. All of these lessons have been learnt at Venture and have become real and important to the children.
Learning unfolds as we all become receptive to emergent experiences, rather than planned activities. This encourages us all to be mindful of each moment, each day and every season.
“. . . because learning begins when consciousness erupts, education must also.” Friedrich Froebel (1782-1852)
Read the rest of our Spring 1 newsletter here