Learning to find magic in challenging times

Life at the moment is challenging for all of us in one way or another. We feel extremely grateful to escape to this little peaceful corner of the world and to spend the day experiencing life through the eyes of a child, as magical and extraordinary. There have been many special moments this half term but one in particular reminded me of how our children always seem to find the magic in challenging times. As we arrived in Hope Cove to lashing rain and gale force winds, we began the day with a little trepidation, wondering how the children would cope. We needn’t have worried. As we sat by the fire warming our toes and munching our snacks the children eagerly asked where we were headed for the day and after a little discussion about wind direction and tide times we decided that the woods would be our location for the morning. The children threw their bags onto their backs and headed out to find their names on the rope bus, which looked like a waterfall itself as the rain dripped from their name tags. We set off, embracing the wild weather. As the rain poured down, a stream of muddy water flowed down from the woods, providing the opportunity to discuss the steepness of the road and the speed of the flowing water. They listened to the rushing water in the drain and noticed that the water was higher than usual. Due to the beating rain the woodland gate was more slippery than usual but that didn’t stop them clambering over or sliding through the mud underneath. They felt the squidgy mud under their wellies and talked about how it was tricky to walk as it felt like their boots were being sucked into the mud. They jumped in puddles of muddy water and watched the splash of mud on their waterproofs, discovering that the harder they jump, the higher the mud will travel, even as high as their faces! They rolled balls of mud and put them onto the end of sticks as they pretended they were camping with a fire to toast their marshmallows. They practiced forming letters and drew pictures along the fence using mud, a little more interesting than just a pencil. They found bits of broken branches to stand on as ski’s to slide down the muddy hill, quite the balancing challenge! Throughout the day we heard screams of joy and laughter and shouts of “This is absolutely crazy good” and “It’s my greatest day ever!”

We understand that as parents you may question the positives of leaving your child in the woods with howling winds and a temperature of two degrees. We understand that playing outdoors in Winter gives our children the opportunity to learn that they can manage life when it gets challenging. We tell them that they can achieve anything and continuously build their self-esteem. They discover that they have the ability to persist and make the most of what life throws at them. We know that grit and resilience are two essential capacities that our children need for long term wellness. Most importantly we look forward to the reward of hot chocolate at the end of the day whilst reflecting on how much we have learnt and how proud we are of their achievements. 

Read the rest of the Venture Hope Cove newsletter for Spring 1 2021 here.

Why the adults at Venture are ‘not helpful’

What an incredible term we have had so far. We are so proud of the achievements many of the children have made and our hearts sing as we scan our eyes across the garden to watch a flurry of enthusiastic, happy and busy children. 

As we have had some questions and queries from parents since our opening and we would normally have had the opportunity for a parent evening to discuss these, we thought we would take this opportunity to explain a little about our background and methods.

As some of you are aware our first Pre-School was opened in 2018 in Hope Cove, with the aim of providing exceptional and unique outdoor child-led education. In 2019, encouraged by an “Outstanding”  assessment from Ofsted, we decided to open a new setting at Kitley. However it all began some time before that.

About 7 years ago we had a chance meeting in some woodland on the Flete Estate and struck up a conversation which soon led to a realisation that we shared a passion for providing young children with the best care and environment possible for their growth and development. Up to that point we had been solely concerned with our own children, but we soon began working together at Holbeton Pre-School and enjoyed re-shaping existing practices according to our own standards and principles.

Between that moment and now, we have spent all of our working days (and a worryingly large amount of our personal lives) discussing over and over the intricacies of early childhood and how caring for children at this most precious and important time should be done. We both read extensively on the subject and incorporate the best practices that we can find either in the UK or abroad. We have visited some incredible examples such as the Secret Garden in Scotland which was written about by Richard Louv, and Little Forest Folk in London. These settings have inspired us, along with our own ongoing learning about many different pedagogies, and we take a little from them all. But ultimately what we have come to realise is that, in Venture, we have created our very own unique and very special pedagogy.

Every day that the two of us are together we are talking and tweaking our method. Sometimes even at 5 am on a Sunday we are messaging one another, reflecting, wondering how it should be done, how could it be better, changing even the smallest details. We will never stop working towards making this the absolute best Early Years experience we can. 

This term we have been interviewing, and we have so far considered or interviewed 28 candidates. It is a very careful process and we spend a long time evaluating what we feel constitutes the most important element of Venture, the people. Once we take on staff there begins a process of training and a journey for them which will continue throughout their time with us. Every detail of how the adult interacts with a child is scrutinised and carefully thought about. The detail and subtlety in this is vast, down to when to make eye contact, when it should be just a nod or a wink, when to get involved in an argument. All of this will depend upon which child it is, what they have going on at home, what they might be currently struggling with. When you see us standing in the garden watching the children, there is a careful process going on of gleaning as much information about that child, along with caring for their needs with a totally non-invasive approach. From there we can scaffold their learning, but above all else nurture them, allow them to flourish and ensure that when they leave us they are bursting with confidence, independence, resilience and self-esteem. 

We received an email this term from a lovely parent who had some queries and feedback for us and asked about why we don’t necessarily follow the same format as other Preschool settings, one example being that we didn’t do anything for National Garden Bird Watch week. We thought perhaps there may be more of our families who have wondered similarly, so here is a little of the reply:

“At Venture, as you know, we take a different approach to other early years settings or schools. Our offering is unique and is the product of years of development, consideration and observation. We believe that the children should be, first and foremost, nurtured, so that they are confident and that their self-esteem is always boosted. Therefore, we spend a lot of time getting to know the children and doing things at their pace until they are well settled in the environment.

This of course encompasses a multitude of challenges in all weathers and they get to experience first-hand some pretty extraordinary days of wind, rain, mud and of course the beautiful changes in the seasons. We are also working hard, extremely hard in some cases, to encourage independence and resilience, which we have heard from many reception teachers shines through when they compare a Venture child to children from settings where they have an adult do everything for them. We all know that learning can only truly take place when a child feels happy, capable and confident.

During this time, and every single day they attend Venture they are discovering nature. A ladybird, worms, slugs, centipedes, birds, woodlice, wasps, hollowed out cobnuts, mermaids purse’, bees and mice are a few recent examples.  The children often discover these things for themselves and it is from their own interest and innate curiosity that they learn about them. 

Therefore, in answer to why we often do not always conform to what other early years settings may offer, such as the garden bird watch. Firstly it is important to us that the children discover these things for themselves and that they learn from their own interests, but also what these adult planned activities offer would be what our children are lucky enough to experience everyday. On the day when we have arranged bird watching and craft the children could be more interested for example in the ice that has formed in the garden overnight, and would therefore feel pressured to do and attend to what the adults want rather than having the independence and freedom to follow their own interests and passions.

Over time it has become clear that often children who are coerced into learning about what the adults have chosen, are effectively turned off learning altogether. 

It is also more important to us that the children enjoy their day and the process of making something rather than sending them home with an adult led creation which would be solely to impress and keep parents happy.”

“True learning – learning that is permanent and useful, that leads to intelligent action and further learning — can arise only out of the experience, interest, and concerns of the learner.” -John Holt

Read the rest of the Venture Kitley Farm newsletter for Spring 1 2021 here.

Hope Cove team

As we near the end of our first term back at Venture, as well as welcoming many new children we have also welcomed wonderful new people to our team. Here are some of their thoughts on Venture.

Cathryn has revelled in her first term at Venture and has been particularly blown away watching the learning experiences that happen when children are given the time and space to explore their minds and bodies at their own pace. Having come from a primary school classroom where things are jammed packed and fast paced, Cathryn is really cherishing the slower pace where the child led approach is prioritised. It makes her heart sing to watch quirky role play unfold or deeper level thinking skills come into action through unprompted learning experiences. The children have been an absolute joy to get to know and she is excited for what is to come as friendships evolve, the gang feel more confident to venture slightly further afield and the children develop their nature connection skills.

Jess’ favourite thing from this last half term has been watching the children’s independence, confidence and resilience continue to grow week on week. She has seen each and every child achieve something new and more challenging. Whether it’s jumping from increasingly higher rocks, climbing another branch higher in the tree, independently negotiating who will use a piece of equipment first, or managing to pack their lunch away without support. They have all taken huge steps forward and it has been so magical and special to have witnessed these lovely little moments.

Vienna has really enjoyed the walks that we do at Venture. During these walks, we spot and discuss the things that we pass. This can be anything from the workmen digging up the road, to a brave robin who has landed nearby. The pace varies, as does the tone, as we amble or sprint, whisper or sing along the paths. Conversations can be so thoughtful as children observe their surroundings and use this as a stimulus to tell us about their thoughts, their homes, their friends etc. It’s a really special time.

This term Gabrielle has really loved getting to know all the children and seeing their amazing personalities shine through. We’ve had some gorgeous winter weather and she’s loved going to the beach and has been wowed by the children’s enthusiasm and knowledge of their surroundings. As the children’s confidence grows so too does their imagination and role play together, building new friendships through games of tag, collecting treasures or digging holes together. How lucky we are to have Hope Cove as our classroom.

Read the rest of the Venture Hope Cove newsletter here.

Venture Kitley Farm, a parents’ view

We really enjoyed reading this beautifully written account and Natasha has very kindly allowed us to share it with you all. If any of you ever feel inclined to share your thoughts of Venture we would love to receive more parents’ views/write ups.

REVIEW – Venture Kindergarten for Green Parent Magazine

By Natasha Block Hicks

Please can you tell me why you chose the kindergarten?

A weekend stay at an Airbnb in Kingsbridge, with a family whose son was on the waiting list for Venture Hope Cove, alerted us to this small and unusual early years setting.  It sounded Arcadian: children outdoors whatever the weather; the beach and woods their classroom; pebbles, sand and sticks their toys; rocks and trees their climbing frames.  We returned the following Thursday and witnessed for ourselves a typical afternoon on the beach at this outdoor kindergarten.  Pre-schoolers of an age that one is lead to believe will play alongside each other but rarely together were actively engaging with their peers, problem-solving in teams, being open, curious and communicative, and most importantly reaching out to our then 2.5-year-old to bring her into the fold.  The adults were notable by their quiet attentiveness, neither directing nor refereeing the play, but standing back and allowing it to unfold within a reasonable set of boundaries that the children seemed to implicitly understand.  We were (and still are) impressed by the faith the adults have in allowing these young children to test and teach themselves about their own abilities and physical limitations.  We were delighted when founders Jenny and Zoe told us that they were launching a sister kindergarten, Venture Kitley Farm in Yealmpton, the region of Devon we were scouting out as a potential place to settle.  We signed Lily up for the April 2020 start date and set about facilitating our move South West.

And what your child loves about the kindergarten?

Venture Kitley Farm has a slightly different setting to Venture Hope Cove, with a tepee (rather than the latter’s Fishermen’s Reading Rooms) as a central gathering point within a dedicated green space.  Lily, despite never before having received any formal childcare, has taken to the notion of ‘her’ kindergarten, with ‘her’ tepee where she deposits her backpack every morning (packed with everything she might need for a day outdoors) and around which the daily routines revolve.  Although parental separation was initially challenging for her, every morning she nevertheless asked to go to kindergarten, to the palpable warm welcome awaiting her there.  The independence fostered at Venture suits her personality, as well as the respect afforded the children when they are for example (under subtle supervision) allowed to use proper tools to carry out simple self-guided hammering, cutting and drilling tasks.  She loves venturing out for regular adventures on the ‘rope bus’, a genius device whereby the children each have a loop on a long rope to hold as they step out to explore the local tracks, fields and orchards.  Mainly for Lily however, it is the promise of playmates that draws her; in the six short weeks that the kindergarten has been open after the delays imposed by Covid-19, Lily has developed some charming friendships with the other children, undoubtedly facilitated by the hands-off approach of the adults and the spirit of kindness and cooperation nurtured among the children at Venture Kindergarten.

Read the rest of the Venture Kitley Farm newsletter here.

Autumn outdoors

We can’t believe that we are nearing the end of the first half of the Autumn term at Venture Kitley Farm.  It is at this time of year that we usually like to invite parents into our settings to gain an insight into the unique model of learning we use at Venture, but as current guidelines don’t allow for this, we would like to take a little time here to explain why this is so effective. 

Autumn has always been our favourite time of year at Venture. As the weather becomes more wet and wild, we can really begin to see the benefits of an outdoor setting.  The adults enjoy the challenge and the reward that it brings. Every day feels like an adventure and we go home feeling like we have achieved so much. We know that the children also share this experience, although most of the time they (unless they are reminded by a parent) don’t seem to notice the sideways rain and gale force winds! 

We mustn’t forget that this challenge is one of the most important parts of what we provide and indeed why Venture was created. An indoor setting is an easier journey for children. They can sit in warm shelter on the carpet comforted by playing with toys that are familiar to them (maybe a train set) without having to make an effort to engage and use their imaginations. 

We are very aware that some people may wonder about whether their child should be in a more conventional preschool and that this would be better for their ‘learning’. At Venture we place a high emphasis on pure, child-led play as it is through play that children learn most effectively and our approach perfectly covers and exceeds the expectations of the EYFS (Early Years Foundation Stage) curriculum. Our approach to learning and the impact it has on the children is why at our Hope Cove setting we achieved an emphatic “Outstanding” rating from Ofsted. 

‘Child-led’ is a term often used but not fully implemented in most early years settings. Other professionals who have visited us, and indeed many of our new members of staff, have commented on the fact that at Venture we truly do take everything at the child’s pace and the children truly are in control of their own play and learning. 

We have watched this term as the children settle into their play, as they decide what to do next, without obvious predictable activities set up for them. Instead they have to think, wonder, dream and create things to do on their own. This has led to some fantastic ideas such as creating the ‘mud patch’. Some of them have spent a long time working together, planning, designing and building, clearing a path, digging an area, using guttering and joining pipes together.  All of this was done as a team, welcoming new people each day, negotiating, problem solving, sharing, making decisions and taking risks and changing strategies. Add to that the incredibly rich language used in order to complete these tasks together and we have something really very special! The resources we provide for the children to play with allow them to try their own ideas, ask their own questions, discover their own answers and create new possibilities. 

‘Childhood is not a race to see how quickly a child can read, write and count. It is a small window of time to learn and develop at the pace that is right for each individual child. Earlier is not better’ Magda Gerber.

We make the most of the three natural opportunities to sit together everyday, as the children eat. This is a time for discussion, learning to speak to the whole group, learning the art of conversation, feeling valued for what they have to say and how to listen to and take account of what others say. During this time the children are listening because they are interested. We don’t need to tell them to sit still and listen because it is led by them, they are taking the reins.  We talk about books we have read, we tell stories, they talk about their homes, places they have been and what they have been doing with their families. We discuss other traditions and cultures and the children learn that they don’t all enjoy the same things. We count, sing and make shapes with our hand wipes. We learn about phonics and recognising letters, words and numbers. 

The children cover all aspects of physical development within the natural and real environment: climbing, balancing, jumping and handling equipment and tools. Their fine motor skills are developed for school in all of the many tasks we undertake such as zips, ropes, vegetable peelers, pegs. We mark make wherever we go, with paint, charcoal, chalk and mud or using clipboards and pens.

The children naturally learn the importance of a healthy lifestyle. We talk about fresh air and exercise and instil in them a healthy approach by spending time outdoors playing rather than the focus being on indoor play and technology. Healthy eating is promoted and modelled by staff and we place emphasis on the children becoming independent in self-care.

We count steps, sort and categorise objects we find, talk about weight, position, distance, shapes, time, quantity and we problem solve using these skills. We are surrounded by nature and all the natural interest that this brings. We investigate nature and talk about changes in seasons and the children learn to make observations of animals and plants and learn why things occur whilst experiencing first hand changes in the environment. The children use cameras, a stopwatch, walkie talkies and an ipad as they play, or learn to use kitchen equipment during afternoon snack, and  their use of technology is always for a particular purpose.

The adults stand back and allow the children to play and their ideas to flow. We do not stop them when they are engaged in important role play with friends, through which they are able to represent their own ideas, thoughts and feelings. 

Our focus is always the children’s emotional well-being. We know that with confidence and good self-esteem everything else will naturally follow. We focus on independence and a positive mental attitude, encouraging the children to do things for themselves and offering just the right level of support so that the children really benefit from that sense of achievement. At first it might be the smallest of tasks such as unzipping their own coat, getting themselves organised at lunchtime, learning how to open their tupperware, or peeling an orange, but the confidence this gained carries forward, so that the children will feel they are ready to tackle anything. 

As adults, we get on with real jobs around the children, involving them in real life situations. We allow them to watch us and question, we discuss what we are doing as we work.  Every day we feel excited to be able to share with you the incredible experience of Venture Outdoor Kindergarten. It is undeniably, as we have witnessed, a brilliant way to deliver Early Years education and it is giving your children an opportunity to become engrossed with all of their senses in the natural world, to make their own decisions, to use their imagination and be allowed to think independently rather than be spoon fed knowledge. The children gain so much from this and we are overjoyed to see it on their faces as they make such quick progress in all areas of life!

 

Read the rest of the Venture Kitley Farm newsletter here.

First six weeks at Venture Kitley Farm

We have had a truly brilliant 6 weeks at our new Kitley Farm setting and have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know you all. We have been lucky to have a great combination of sun and rain, giving us many different opportunities and experiences. From splashing in puddles, delighting in being squirted by the hose and picking strawberries, to lighting the log burner in the teepee and drinking hot chocolate.  The children all settled incredibly quickly and there have been many new friendships forged some of which we look forward to developing further next term. 

We work hard at Venture to promote the children’s independence and it has been an absolute joy to watch these new children embrace the routines and delight in learning new skills. All of these small things we do such as ensuring that they learn how to pack away their own snack and lunch, find their own bag and get themselves changed are giving them the tools they need to move onto their next experiences. We have interviewed many reception teachers who find that the most frustrating thing for both themselves and the children in their class is when children arrive unable to do simple tasks for themselves. So often this important resilience is overlooked and it can have a huge impact on the child’s confidence, self-esteem and learning at the most crucial stage of their education.

Another wonderful thing the children learn at Venture is how to look after each other and we place a huge emphasis on respect. It has been incredible to watch how quickly these children have learnt to enjoy helping a friend in need. Whether it is a gentle arm on their shoulder when they are upset or a helping hand undoing a friend’s rucksack. We watch the warm delight spread over their faces as they experience the emotion kindness and caring brings. We spend long periods of time sitting at snack and lunch times and we are always so proud of the conversation that arises during these moments. With small ratios and a quiet calm environment there is so much opportunity for communication and language at Venture. The children learn to listen to one another, taking into account what their friends tell them and thinking of appropriate responses. There have been some very detailed accounts of experiences shared and again you can see their confidence and self esteem rise as they get positive feedback from the adults and their peers. There is usually a lot of laughter as well as they hone their sense of humour on their friends.

One of the most rewarding things to watch this term has been the creativity we have seen, the children have embraced the freedom to explore the resources. Resulting in building and making some pretty extraordinary structures with loose parts, odd bits of woods and real tools. During this time they learn to negotiate, problem solve and are learning collaboration and cooperation. Having loose parts available offers an entirely different way of learning offering multiple rather than single outcomes. It is a joy to watch the children use these skills and to then experience simple pleasures with their friends, away from indoor noise or with toys which so often leave nothing to the imagination. 

We cannot begin to tell you how happy and excited we are as we develop Venture Kindergarten. It is for us quite literally a dream come true, we have worked so hard to create what we feel is the best early years education. We spend hours discussing and tweaking the ways in which we do things in order to try and create the absolute best environment for the children. We use our own experiences as parents, and from many years of teaching, we ensure that we are still learning from one another, our families and from every child in our care today.  We have spent a long time carefully interviewing new staff and we are very lucky to have a selection of the very best early years educators in the area. Some have recently moved or in the process of moving and all with really interesting and varied backgrounds.  All of them have amazing experiences outside of childcare which brings a unique richness to the provision we can offer. 

We can say with absolute confidence that our team is of the best quality you can imagine. We are about to welcome a selection of new staff, who are all exceptional individuals and will add many new exciting opportunities for the children. 

 

To read the Venture Kitley Farm summer newsletter click here.

One moment of many incredible moments

These past few weeks at Venture have been rather extraordinary and we feel very fortunate that we were able to spend this time with these inspiring children. There have been many memorable moments, but this particular moment reminds us why Venture is so special. It was a sunny, yet windy day and we headed off to Mouthwell beach. Our ever-changing environment is often the topic of many conversations and as we arrived the children commented on how the stream running down the beach looked different. They thought that there wasn’t as much water and wondered if this was because the sun had dried it up at the top of the waterfall or whether people in Hope Cove were drinking more because we had quite a few days of warm weather. As we sat together to talk about how to keep safe whilst playing at the beach I could hear little whispers of ideas being shared and plans being devised. These children then wandered off towards the waterfall discussing how the streams of water flowed in different directions and why the directions were different to yesterday. With time to let their minds wander they shared different concepts but decided that the sea must have been particularly wild overnight which had pulled the sand higher up the beach towards the wall. They noticed how the sand had made a barrier and the water from the waterfall was creating a pool. They began gathering rocks and seaweed on a piece of wood they spotted under the concrete and started laying them continuing along the sand barrier using the seaweed to block the holes between the rocks. Creatively and effectively using the resources around them. As more children gathered around to look, a small dam that just two children were working on soon emerged into all ten children working together problem solving, negotiating, making decisions, asking questions and advising each other. As the children were following their own choices, without adult interference their thoughts and ideas were their own, they felt empowered and became deeply involved in their own play. The children communicated with each other throughout the process. sharing ideas and discussing theories. Explaining what would be the best resource to use, why it would work and how to use it effectively. They listened intently to each other and asked questions for clarification. The children’s vocabulary was incredible as they used complex words to explain concepts such as “The water is most powerful here, where it’s close to the waterfall” and “the wood is big enough but not heavy the water force will push it over”. It was evident that these children have built strong relationships and have a real understanding of one another. Continuously offering guidance and encouragement they advised each other on what they could do and rushed to help when friends were struggling. Throughout the whole process the children were independently assessing risks and managing their own safety as they worked together to move heavy rocks into place. They occasionally stood back to look, observe and reflect on the decisions they had made and create a plan to solve the next problem. Although it took time for a solution to be reached, with space and time for children to think critically and problem solve independently, they are learning a powerful lesson in trusting themselves to work things out. From their persistence it was evident the satisfaction they experienced as they stood back to look at their dam. The intentions and goals they achieved were their own. Although it wasn’t long until the dam collapsed, yet with a different perspective and new approach they began to build it again…

Read the rest of our Venture Hope Cove summer newsletter here.

Megan’s Childhood Memories

I grew up in a small village in Devon. It was one of those villages where you know everyone, a wonderful place to grow up. Days were spent walking to the common at the top of the village with my sister, collecting sticks along the way to build dens and fires. Finding the steepest lane in the village to roller skate down clinging on to the bushes to stop us sliding right to the bottom. Helping my God mother at her allotment, digging, planting and watering. Although I think I spent most of the time searching for worms and making homes for them in little plant pots. Through the winter, my cousins and I would wait until the rain had made huge puddles in a road we would call ‘the pit’, we would jump on our bikes and spend the afternoon pedalling as fast as we could down the hill splashing through the water.

 

At the end of our garden we had a tall brown fence with high bushes that towered over from the neighbour’s garden. I remember playing outside in our wendy house listening to the new neighbours hearing children running up and down the garden. We soon became friends and pulled back the bushes to meet for chats on the fence with hot chocolates as the sun set. One of my most vivid memories of my childhood was at the bottom of the garden on her tree swing. I had clambered over the fence and we were both sat on the swing, a plank big enough for 2 children to sit on held up by old rope tied to the tree. We were swinging so high, both clinging on to the rope and each other. As we swung higher and higher our feet pushed through the leaves of the tree and we could see up to the blue sky, our toes almost touching the clouds, I felt as though I was on top of the world.

 

As a teenager I lived on the beach. As soon as the weekend came my friends and I would catch a bus followed by a train and a long walk. We explored the coast and found different spots to spend our day. Swimming through coves, chatting in the sunshine and making fires to keep warm as the sun set. We always left it too late and would have to run as fast as we could to catch the last train home.

 

The outdoors will always be a big part of my life. There is nothing I love more than grabbing our tent on a friday evening and spending the weekend camping and discovering new places to explore on the coast with long walks, bike rides and paddleboard adventures.

Reflections on Venture

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

Press Release

 

 PRESS RELEASE

Pioneering South Hams kindergarten to open two new sites
Expansion in response to huge demand for places
Endorsement of unique outdoor educational approach

A pioneering South Hams kindergarten is to open two new sites in Yealmpton and Kingsbridge following unprecedented demand for places.
Venture Outdoor Kindergarten, which has operated from a base in Hope Cove since 2018, looks after 30 children aged 2-5 years in the open air throughout the year, whatever the weather.
Applying a blend of educational approaches first developed in Scandinavia, Venture Outdoor’s unique ethos focuses on developing a child’s independence, resilience and curiosity about the world around them, using the natural world as inspiration.
Venture Hope Cove received an ‘Outstanding’ OFSTED rating in November 2019, and now has a waiting list for places, prompting a move to open two more sites.
The first additional site to open in April 2020 will be at Kitley Farm, in Yealmpton. Venture Kitley Farm will offer funded places Monday to Friday, supervised by 4 qualified full-time staff.
The second additional site, based in the centre of Kingsbridge, will offer 15 funded places a day and is scheduled to open in the autumn term 2020. Venture Kingsbridge will offer the opportunity to explore and learn in and around the parks, community gardens, the estuary and surrounding countryside of Kingsbridge.
Commenting on the expansion, Venture Outdoor Kindergarten co-founder, Jennifer Papenfus, said:
‘Today’s learning environment for children is often too controlled, with technology stifling creativity or the opportunity for any meaningful enquiry. Venture Outdoor Kindergarten encourages children to develop and explore their own interests, empowering them to make their own decisions, to hone their social skills and to develop an appreciation for the natural world.”

‘It’s clear from the overwhelming levels of support we have had, that an increasing number of parents feel as we do, that children need the freedom in which to discover and develop their own skills and interests, free from the enervating effect of overly structured learning.’

In its inspection in November, 2019, OFSTED inspectors, said of Venture Outdoor Hope Cove:
“The quality of education is exemplary.
“Parents enthuse about their child’s experiences and report that they feel their children are ‘privileged’ and ‘fortunate’ to attend this wonderful kindergarten.
“Managers are exceptional. They have a clear vision and strong focus for the curriculum, and they know what each child can do and what they need to learn next. They follow children’s interests to ensure each child receives a rich and meaningful experience.”

Venture Kitley Farm will open on April 14th for the summer term and is accepting registrations now.

Contacts:
Jennifer Papenfus and Zoe Purkis
Tel. 07500 927722
ventureoutdoorkindergarten@outlook.com
https://www.instagram.com/venturekindergarten/

Notes to Editors:

About Venture Outdoor Kindergarten
Venture Outdoor was founded by Jennifer Papenfus and Zoe Purkis. The company offers high quality outdoor early years education, which is child-led and play based. The curriculum has been developed to meet the seven areas of learning as set out in the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS). There are currently five members of staff, all of whom have academic degrees and two of whom hold qualified teacher status. All staff have substantial previous experience of outdoor provision.