The Venture Team

Jenny and Zoe met six years ago in the woods and soon found that they shared a passion for natural education and parenting. Almost two years later they agreed to lead the local preschool together which was on the brink of closure after an unsuccessful Ofsted inspection. Within a few months, Jenny and Zoe transformed the preschool and gained a ‘good’ Ofsted report. Their practice has been increasingly influenced by the approach to education seen in Scandinavian outdoor kindergartens and they have seen first hand the benefits to children of spending their days learning autonomously outdoors, leading them to establish the South Hams’ first fully outdoor kindergarten.

Zoe Purkis

Founder of Venture Outdoor Kindergarten

BEd (Hons) Primary Teaching
BTec Level 3 Forest School Leader
Paediatric First Aid Qualified
Safeguarding Level 2 Qualified

Zoe has worked as a primary school teacher, pre-school leader and as a home educating parent to her own five children. She is passionate about getting children outdoors believing that this is the key to a happy, healthy and fulfilled childhood. Zoe has spent many years studying how children learn and is an enthusiastic advocate of autonomous education. She loves exploring with her family and their dog and is a member of several local singing and amateur dramatic groups.

Jenny Papenfus

Founder of Venture Outdoor Kindergarten

Ba (Hons) Communication Studies and Theatre
Level 3 Childcare and Development
BTec Level 3 Forest School Leader
Paediatric First Aid Qualified
Safeguarding Level 3  & Special Educational Needs.

After studying for her degree at University in London, Jenny moved to the West Country and for the past 10 years has worked in schools and pre-schools. Jenny loves to follow a child’s interests and is a natural at understanding and nurturing children’s emotional well-being. In her spare time Jenny likes to run, wild swim and spend time with her family at the beach or roaming the countryside.

Megan Heathman

Lead Outdoor Early Years Practitioner

BA (Hons) Children's Physical Education
PGCE Primary with Early Years specialism
Safeguarding Level 3
Paediatric First Aid Qualified

After completing her PGCE, Megan worked as an EYFS teacher in a small primary school. She grew up in Devon, spending her childhood on the beach and exploring the countryside. Megan truly believes that children become inquisitive, independent and resilient learners when they are given the freedom to lead their own learning in an outdoor environment that nurtures their innate curiosities. She is passionate about nurturing children as they develop and supporting their emotional well-being. In her own time Megan loves to explore the coast and spends her time camping and paddle boarding.

Sarah Gardner

Deputy Lead Outdoor Early Years Practitioner

BEng (Hons) Mechanical Engineering
Level 3 Forest School Leader
Beach Schools Practitioner
Level 3 Outdoor
First Aid Qualified
Safeguarding Level 3

Sarah is a Chartered Marine Engineer, a mother of two young boys and a wife to a serving Naval Officer. After 23 years of service in the Royal Navy, she made the decision to leave in order to provide some stability for her family. With a love of the outdoors she decided she wanted to work in an outdoor environment. After completing her Beach School's course and Forest School training, she has led Forest School sessions in numerous local pre-schools and schools. When not working, Sarah loves to be active. She is a keen walker and surfer and gets around the occasional triathlon!

Cathryn Burner

Home Education Lead Outdoor Practitioner

BEd Primary School Education
Paediatric First Aid Qualified
Safeguarding Level 3
Yoga Teacher Training Foundation Course

Cathryn has taught in several primary schools during her career; abroad and most recently at a very popular local school that prides itself on offering a broad and balanced curriculum. During her time as a teacher and since becoming a mother back in 2013, she has increasingly realised how beneficial learning outdoors and at an individual’s own pace, can be. Cathryn believes that children should be given the space, time and guidance to develop at their own speed and uses Mother Nature to inspire and enrich children’s learning experiences. She has practiced Yoga for the past 12 years and nears the end of her training course when she plans to incorporate the key elements of Yoga (not just physical) into her teaching practice. She has recently decided to home school both her 7 and 5 year old and is very excited at the thought of following their interests and curious minds to aid the learning process. When she is not teaching, you can find Cathryn on her flower patch, in the garden growing veg, or down at the beach with her family who are all learning to surf!

Vienna Dodman

Outdoor Early Years Practitioner

BA (Hons) Early Childhood Studies QTS
BTec Level 3 Forest School Leader
Paediatric First Aid Qualified

Vienna has worked as a Primary School Teacher for eleven years. She is dedicated to ensuring that each individual child reaches their full potential and has a keen interest in and knowledge of supporting children with special educational needs. After having her own children, Vienna extended her training to working with children in the outdoors, leading Forest School sessions in local schools, and has loved every minute of it! Vienna enjoys outdoor adventures with her family and running in her spare time. Her two children have both been fortunate enough to attend Venture Outdoor Kindergarten, which is what originally inspired her to join the team.

Gabrielle Sumner

Outdoor Early Years Practitioner

Level 3 Diploma Early Learning and Childcare
Level 3 Forest School Leader
Level 3 Award for Home Based Childcare

Paediatric First Aid Qualified

Gabrielle has a wealth of experience working with children in a variety of roles across nurseries, primary schools and charities both in the UK and overseas. She has also been a registered childminder and has run her own children’s entertainment business. Most recently she’s been working in an outdoor nursery in Bristol where she helped establish and lead the provision for younger children. She’s a firm believer in the importance of play and giving children the freedom to express themselves as individual learners. Gabrielle has recently relocated to Devon from Bristol, she can’t wait to explore the beautiful local area with her family and their pet dog.

Jessica Willow

Outdoor Early Years Practitioner

BA (Hons) Early Years Education with QTS

Jess trained as an Early Years Specialist Teacher in Bristol. Since graduating in 2010 she has taught in a number of different schools across the UK. Having grown up in West Devon, Jess spent her own childhood climbing trees, building dens, whittling sticks and romping around on Dartmoor. These experiences have transferred into her career where she has always sought roles within schools which offer forest school or outdoor learning. Jess is passionate about letting children play spontaneously and following their interests to guide their learning and understanding. At home, Jess loves nothing more than splashing in muddy puddles and making mud pies in the garden with her own two children; one of whom attends Venture Outdoor Kindergarten too.

Charlotte Meads

Outdoor Early Years Practitioner

NCFE CACHE Level 3 Diploma Early Years Educator

Charlotte has been passionate about early years education since becoming a mother in 2011. She fell in love with Germany’s outdoor kindergartens while traveling and was inspired to dedicate her career to promoting the same here in the South Hams. She recently worked at a popular local pre-school where she built an allotment and implemented a recycling scheme. Charlotte believes childhood should be wild, magical and empowering! Her spare time is spent writing fairy tales for her own children or exploring forests and rugged coast paths with her dog. She plans to develop her professional skills by becoming an accredited Forest Bathing Guide which is a practice she feels deeply connected to and influences her work.

Chris Lowe

Outdoor Early Years Practitioner

MEng (Hons) Mechanical Engineering
PGDip Early Years with Initial Teacher Training (awaiting)

Chris is the proud father of two young children and the husband to an NHS Consultant in Emergency Medicine & Air Ambulance Doctor. As a family they thrive most when outdoors, and in the short time they have been in Devon have already found several picnic and wild camping spots. They spend as much time as possible hiking, kayaking or wild swimming no matter what the weather. To support their move to Devon Chris ended a successful 15-year career with Rolls-Royce Plc and The University of Birmingham. To be a father has always been Chris’s main ambition in life, and as the son of a childminder with two younger brothers has gained many years’ experience. At parties and weddings, he is usually found entertaining the kids with fun games or holding somebody else’s baby(s). For Chris there is nothing more rewarding than to hear a child laugh or to watch them celebrate when they achieve. Coupled with his first-hand experience of the benefits of outdoor kindergartens, Chris could not think of a more perfect career change.