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.

A visit from Ofsted… and some exciting news!

We have had another fantastic term at Venture and I know that our amazing Venture team have also enjoyed every minute of it. We have all appreciated the reward that the more challenging winter weather brings. There is nothing like feeling that you really deserve a hot chocolate by the fire, and your lunch always tastes that bit better after struggling through a howling gale. We have enjoyed getting cosy in the Reading Rooms, putting our hats and socks on the heater and sitting under the Christmas tree. We have tried to teach some of the children the etiquette of not hogging the fire!

The highlight of this term has to be our Ofsted inspection. It was just a very normal day at the kindergarten and the only reason for any lack of sleep for us was pure excitement that we were finally able to show off. However we have spent the last 2 years becoming slightly fed up with our own voices constantly saying the word Ofsted. I know that in my mind I had decided that if Ofsted were to tell us that what we had created was in some way not good enough, we most likely would have lost our enthusiasm to continue. Because every day that I am with the children at Venture I am relaxed, happy and confident in the knowledge that we simply couldn’t do a better job of nurturing them and giving them the best possible start in life.

The day unfolded in the usual way, with the children initiating all the best ideas, such as digging out the now slightly soggy pumpkin flesh, then working together to collect water to pour inside and discovering that this made the seeds float to the top. A perfect example of a ‘lesson’ that we could have planned beforehand, but could not have guaranteed would capture the children’s interest at that moment. We could tell that the inspector was enjoying herself as she chuckled with delight at how Rafe had discovered a new technique for getting water from the tippy tap by using his head. With a queue of patient friends making gentle conversation whilst filling their various receptacles and thanking Rafe for his help, we knew things were looking good. At around 12:30 pm she took us to one side. She said that at that point she was thinking we were definitely ‘good’ but she was hoping that once she had finished asking us a few more questions and had carried out the management meeting she hoped that she could give us outstanding. As she saw the look on our faces, and the tears well in our eyes, she said that she had been struck by the obvious passion we had and that she could see how important it was to us. She continued to say that what she was witnessing when observing the children was very obviously as a result of a lot of hard work and a strong belief in what we do. We then had a slightly nerve wracking hour of her sifting through various bits of paperwork before she sat back smiling and announced the result.
There was a lovely moment when the inspector was checking the staff appraisal forms and pointed out, one member of staff’s comment that she had “never been so happy”. For a few days afterwards she called us on a daily basis to talk to us and give us more feedback. She told us that we were the first outstanding she had ever given and that her colleagues could not believe that she had finally given someone outstanding. After she had spoken to them about us and what she had seen that day they apparently all wanted to come and have a look. She kept saying what an amazing experience she’d had and thanking us for giving her such a wonderful day. She said that she had been talking about us so much at home that her son would ask her to lie in bed with him and tell him more stories about ‘the special kindergarten’. She told us that she wished that her children were still young and that she would have sent them to us without hesitation. She talked about other places she had recently been to, and that the memory of her day with us would stay with her forever, that it would cheer her up when she was feeling downhearted by other inspection visits. She told us that the inspector who had been previously to register us in Hope Cove had spoken to her about us before she came and had said that she had been really struck by how passionate we were, and that she just knew that it would be a positive experience. She wanted to know all about the progress that we had made in the past 2 years and asked that our inspector call her afterwards to let her know what it was like.
Once the inspector had written the report it had to go to her manager to be checked. The manager commented that it was the most positive report he had read for some time. At the end of it all, she said that she hoped she would have the privilege to come and inspect us again in Yealmpton and that she would continue to follow our progress with admiration. If you haven’t read the report yet the link is below.

https://files.ofsted.gov.uk/v1/file/50129250

Onwards…

We are very excited to announce that we have been registered for our new site “Venture Kitley Farm” in Yealmpton. We have re-submitted the planning permission as it is on a slightly different patch of land. It is directly behind Ben’s Farm Shop and next to Growers Organics. It will be a fenced garden with a 24ft teepee and log burner as our inside space. It will no doubt develop over time, taking into account the children’s interests, but to give you some idea it will have a tool area, fire circle, mud kitchen, gardening plot, digging patch, loose parts on a grander scale, water play and a stage with dressing up. We also have permission from the owner of Kitley estate to roam wherever we want to with the children, so we will visit the surrounding woodland. We will hopefully have the opportunity to get involved with the businesses surrounding us, with animals to visit and the opportunity to teach the children about growing organic produce. Once the planning is on the portal we will let you all know, and if any of you could do a letter of support for us we would really appreciate it.

We have also applied to open in Kingsbridge next year. Again this is something we have been wanting to do for some time. The plan for this would be to run in exactly the same way as Hope Cove, using the library as our base. We will then visit the parks, surrounding countryside and estuary. But we are also very keen to add an urban edge and allow the children the time, for example to explore the high street, the fishmonger window, the cinema, the community gardens, the museum and art gallery. We both remember times when we were rushing a toddler past things that they so wanted to spend a long time looking at. It will be a wonderful opportunity to allow them to fully immerse themselves in their surroundings, in a location offering a slightly different perspective.

 

Read the rest of our Autumn 2 newsletter here.

“Don’t you know that everything at Venture is just magic!”

What a truly wonderful first half term at venture for lots of new children and myself too. It is quite incredible to see how quickly both old and new venturers have settled and wonderful to observe more experienced children holding a hand and showing new children the ropes, myself included. Our days at venture are slow paced and children are given the freedom and time to explore, spending a whole day leading their own learning in natural surroundings that feed their curiosity is something that is quite unique. Children are eager to learn as their experiences are real life and relevant. They aren’t playing with plastic bugs in an already made bug hotel, they are finding slow worms in the mud and finding out what they need to create a suitable home for them. They aren’t tapping a letter on an Ipad screen, they are pointing at a sound on a sign on a wall and questioning what does that say? why is it there? They aren’t moving a small world digger across some brown material pretending to be mud, they are watching from less than a metre away how the controls of the digger move to adjust the bucket as it scoops tarmac from the road.

‘The best learning happens in real life with real problems and real people and
not in classrooms’
Charles Handy

Each child’s thoughts and who they are as individuals is valued and their well-being and happiness is integral. We spend long periods of time observing and listening to children, learning about their character and understanding them as individuals to support them along their learning journeys. Children at venture are learning to be aware of others, to be kind considerate and polite to each other. It is heartwarming to see children helping each other, offering a hand when their friend is sliding down a muddy hill, zipping up each other’s coats as the rain starts to fall and emptying one another’s boots when they have filled with water. The surroundings of Hope Cove are just breathtaking and not a day goes by that we don’t see something different. Yet there’s no denying that it can be a challenge in this ever-changing environment but the confidence and perseverance that children show is something I have never seen before. There was one moment in particular that has stuck with me for the last few weeks. It was at the end of a day in the woods, the wind had started to blow and the rain had started to come down, and the children were strolling along up the hill. As we reached the top and looked down across the hills, I heard a little voice say, “that view is magic!” I replied with “it certainly is” the little voice continued “Don’t you know that everything at venture is just magic”.

Read the rest of our Autumn 1 Newsletter here.

Find us in The Green Parent Magazine

It was lovely to be approached again by The Green Parent magazine, this time to be included in their special edition on learning. They asked us how we create such a strong sense of community at Venture. We recommend buying this interesting and inspirational magazine, but you can also take a sneaky peak at our little bit here!

Tree climbing for school readiness

The last few weeks at Venture have been particularly dreamy. The days when we decide to climb the hills are definitely some of the most memorable. But there has been something else which has been really incredible to watch, another way in which the children can change their perspective, and this has been tree climbing. It is the first time that we have experienced the older children deciding to really push themselves and get as high as they can. Of course, a wonderful benefit of climbing trees is that it can suit every child so the younger or less abled children can also join in, hanging around on the lower branches. All the time watching, learning from and aspiring to be the child high up in the tree smiling and looking down on everyone. You may not know that this simple activity has so many incredible benefits for a child. We all have memories of being alone high up in a tree with a wonderful sense of freedom and feeling alive. You are so aware of being almost wrapped inside a beautiful piece of nature and feeling suddenly strong and confident. Think about by way of comparison a child climbing on play equipment compared to a tree. The tree climbing child is working with something unpredictable and needs a lot more focus and concentration. It is an exceptionally sensory experience and one that is proven to rapidly develop spatial reasoning skills and form complex neural networks in the brain. You need to be a problem solver and have a resilient can-do attitude, developing flexibility not only of the body but of the mind.
During our recent interviews for a leader at the kindergarten, we have met many reception teachers. One of our questions to them has been ‘what do you feel are the most important traits for children to have when they come into school.’ Their answers have resoundingly been that there is an immense concern that so many children are arriving in the school classroom unable to do things for themselves and unable to cope due to a lack of focus, determination and resilience. The seven traits of resilience are: insight, independence, relationships, initiative, creativity, humour, and morality. Studies of risky play have identified four characteristics in a resilient child: social competence, problem-solving skills, autonomy and sense of purpose and future. All of these traits can potentially be derived from tree climbing. Well, we can very proudly say that we have been striving to ensure that for every child we send on from Venture Outdoor Kindergarten to school a lot of work has been put in to ensure that they have these qualities. How brilliant therefore that rather than sitting them down to do phonics and maths lessons (the teachers we spoke to all said that sadly this is what far too many preschools are doing) we have been climbing trees!

Read the rest of our summer 1 newsletter here.