The Venture Team

Jenny and Zoe met eight 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 nurseries and 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, preschool 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 dogs 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 preschools. 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 Early Years 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.

Emma Parsons

Lead Outdoor Early Years Practitioner

PGCE Primary with Qualified Teacher Status
BA English Literature and Language in Education
Level 3 Forest School Leader
Paediatric First Aid Qualified

Emma studied English Language and Literature before completing her PGCE at the University of Roehampton. Until recently Emma has been working within Early Years in a primary school in London, and is currently, since moving back to Devon, completing her Forest School Level 3. Emma not only has extensive knowledge of the EYFS, but she also has a passion, deep understanding and longing to work with children in a setting such as Venture. She understands, having been frustrated by working with children in more pressured, formal, and conformist environments, the importance and magic of allowing children to follow their own interests and curiosities in an unhurried and nurturing environment. Emma grew up in Devon and since returning has been once again embracing the opportunity to swim in the sea and the River Dart, camp, and to enjoy activities such as yoga and cooking. Growing produce and cooking is a passion of hers which she enjoys sharing with the children as they prepare our veggie patch and create an outdoor kitchen.

“I have spent a long time dreaming about the ideal Early Years setting. Somewhere the children are respected and can follow their own interests, with the support of warm and passionate practitioners. A place where the natural curiosity of children is met with opportunities for exploration and discovery and where children are able to connect with nature and benefit from time spent in the wonderful outdoors. At the risk of sounding a bit gushy, when I heard about Venture and discovered the website, I found myself becoming quite emotional. From the descriptions of the team members, the warmth in the tone of the newsletters, to the feedback from parents, I found myself thinking “IT DOES EXIST!!” A chance meeting with a parent who sends his children to Venture cemented my decision to apply and fuelled my hope to be involved with an organisation that feels like the perfect next step in my career and a great match for my approach to Early Years education.”

Vienna Dodman

Deputy Lead Practitioner

BA (Hons) Early Childhood Studies
BTec Level 3 Forest School Leader
Safeguarding Level 3
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 spend their preschool years at Venture Outdoor Kindergarten, which is what originally inspired her to join the team.

Rosie Sykes

Deputy Lead Practitioner

PGCE Primary Education
BSc Psychology
Forest School Level 1

Rosie has been fascinated by child development since studying it during her Psychology degree. She has a strong understanding of how children in their early years develop and is passionate about holistic education and the importance of nature in learning and development. Rosie has always pursued outdoor and child-led learning within school settings. She has used her own interests to help initiate outdoor learning through gardening and food growing, forest school activities, running an ‘eco’ council and outdoor adventurous activities. Rosie enjoys continuing her own professional development within child development and is extremely well read in all areas, particularly in alternative models. Rosie is a keen gardener and describes herself as a ‘Jack of all trades’, she has recently undertaken a course in permaculture, which as she says has led her to have a better understanding of the principles of ‘earth care, people care and fair share’.

“My children have taught me how to slow down, step back and let learning happen without the need for interference. I spend a lot of time standing around in nature (which suits me just fine!) being with them and recapturing my own awe and wonder at the world. I am so lucky to have spent much of my children’s early formative years at home with them, with much of that time spent in nature (we have enjoyed tracking our outside time with 1000 Hours Outside for the past couple of years). Whether in the woods, garden, by the river or beach, I love how my children find creative ways to explore, create, imagine, and solve problems. I am always impressed with how creatively children will find ways around problems when we step back and give them the chance to solve them. I learnt early on in my parenting journey (reinforced through reading the likes of Magda Gerber and Janet Lansbury) to step back and trust my children’s play and development. Children are so much more capable than people often assume. I particularly love the phrase ‘what the child deems as worthy IS worthy’”

Laura Gogola

Deputy Lead Practitioner

PGCE Primary Education with Early Years
BSc (Hons) Sociology
Safeguarding Level 3

 Laura has a degree in sociology and completed her PGCE at the University of Plymouth. Laura has completed so many courses and has such a wealth of experience within Early Years it’s impossible to list it all here! She is currently working on the panel for a Foster Agency and will continue with this and she is also a nominated individual for a preschool. Laura has been both a manager and deputy manager in two different settings and has led a team through 2 Ofsted inspections. She has worked within Early Years for 16 years and during this time has worked in some of the most deprived areas locally. Laura has worked closely with different settings SENDCo and supported children who have additional needs. She has always been passionate about the Nordic approach and has worked hard in all her settings to bring in as much outdoor learning as she can. Laura created a Forest School inspired urban garden for one where she delighted in the positive changes in behaviour, conversations, and relationships. Laura has a close affinity with children and a deep understanding of people generally.

“Through my own personal experiences of working with children and then choosing an early year’s provider for my own child, I have really grown to realise what a huge privilege it is, to be trusted by parents and carers to take on the responsibility of providing an educational and emotionally rich experience for their most precious cargo. It is therefore important to get it right when building a strong partnership with parents and carers as they are the primary educator and caregiver. It's important to make yourself accessible as an early years practitioner to have a chat, offer advice or a listening ear for parents and carers. Being a parent myself to young children has also allowed me to better empathise and understand the dynamics of being a parent and know how important it is to have someone caring for your child, that can be there for you without judgement. It offers a very settling feeling for parents and carers and this in turn is of course in the best interests of the whole child.”

Megan Valentine

Outdoor Early Years Practitioner

Level 3 Early Years Educator
Level 3 Safeguarding
Paediatric First Aid qualified

Megs grew up in a small Devonshire village, spending a lot of time exploring what this beautiful part of the country has to offer. When Megs left school she studied early years education and worked within a nursery setting for four years, before moving to New Zealand and becoming an Au Pair. Megs has a nurturing approach to teaching. She is passionate about supporting children's emotional and spiritual growth. Megs believes that children connect on a deeper level to learning and are happiest when the choice is their own, analysing risks, making judgments and taking responsibility for their actions. She takes pride in providing an invaluable unique experience for each child, engaging them with nature and encouraging a mindful approach to life and a solid respect for the natural world around them. In her free time, Megs loves getting creative and learning new skills, crochet being a current favourite. She loves walking her dog, gardening and spending time with loved ones.

Natalie Fenwick

Outdoor Early Years Practitioner

PGDip Early Years with Initial Teacher Training
BA (Hons) Dance
FD Photography
Safeguarding Level 2

Natalie made the move to early years after returning from travelling with her family in Scandinavia. The time away sparked a lifestyle change that enabled more family time and included aspects of Scandinavian culture, most significantly embracing the outdoors, whatever the weather! Natalie has worked in primary, secondary and tertiary education and is very excited to now be working within the early years and embracing the child-led ethos of Venture. A self confessed learning addict Natalie is always taking on new challenges and lately loves growing vegetables and flowers, keeping chickens, and sewing clothes. In her free time Natalie enjoys walking with friends, playing on the beach with her family, rowing to Salcombe for croissants, sharing home made, wood-fired pizzas in the back garden and snuggling up by the fire with a good book.

Jess Hoare

Outdoor Early Years Practitioner

We'll tell you all about Jess soon!

Chris Latham

Outdoor Early Years Practitioner

Level 3 Diploma Early Learning and Childcare (In progress)
Foundation Degree in Photography
Emergency First Aid

Chris has lived in Devon for over 20 years after moving down from Shropshire to study photography. Having fallen in love with the wilds of Dartmoor and the rugged coastlines, Chris has planted his roots and made a family with his wife Emma and their daughter Tilly. Chris has a background in health care, most recently with young people with Autism, complex health needs and learning disabilities. this has given him an understanding in slowing down and allowing people to process the world in a way which may not be obvious to others. Chris believes in the Venture ethos of ownership, confidence and independence, allowing children to learn from their failures and triumph in their successes. When he is not at work, Chris loves to be on his mountain bike, bivvying on Dartmoor or walking through the woods with his family.

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 three children; one of whom attends Venture Outdoor Kindergarten too.

Laura Kirkland

Outdoor Early Years Practitioner

Level 3 Supporting Teaching and Learning in Schools
Advanced Diploma in Integrative Counselling
Level 3 Counselling Studies

Laura has worked with children since she was 16, both as a nanny and in school and preschool environments. She is passionate about helping children develop their own sense of responsibility and enabling them to explore the outdoors. Laura loves seeing children develop at their own pace and in their own style in natural environments - discovering the person they are and can be. She is rarely far from her four legged friend Midge, who often makes an appearance at Venture. Laura loves camping, sea swimming and pretty much anything to do with the outdoors.