Hornsea Nursery School has launched what is believed to be the only Outdoor Nursery and Forest School in East Yorkshire, giving pre-school children the chance to spend their days whittling sticks and cooking around a campfire in an idyllic, wooded dell.
Drawing inspiration from the Reggio Emilia approach pioneered by pre-schools in northern Italy and the innovative Forest Schools of Denmark, Hornsea Outdoor Nursery and Forest School is based within the existing local authority-funded nursery school site off Newbegin. Comprising an art studio, yurt and extensive grounds, it offers a natural, immersive learning environment and is run by qualified teachers and accredited Forest School leaders. On a typical day, children attending the forest school learn how to use tools, such as mallets and bow saws, build dens and cook pizzas for their lunch over an open fire.
Head teacher Claire White admits that it’s the kind of ground-breaking nursery education that she would have liked her own children to experience, had it been available at that time, explaining “We’ve always had an outdoor ethos, it’s part of our philosophy here. There is an element of risk-taking but those risks are carefully managed. For example, children are taught how to use the tools before they touch them. There are strict rules about how they enter and move around the campfire circle. We support the children to help themselves, encouraging them to work together as teams and solve problems. It is about giving them life skills, as well as preparing them for their future education.”
Even the main nursery building has a very naturalistic feel with lots of wood, shells and other natural materials, rather than mountains of brightly-coloured plastic. Children use real pots, pans, cups and saucers, instead of plastic ones. They are taught to chop their own fruit and vegetables, and even help to dust the ornaments and collections around the nursery. Paint is homemade by crushing chalk and extracting natural plant dyes from petals and blackberries.
The Outdoor Nursery and Forest School takes this approach a step further, with children spending their days outdoors all year round, although they also have access to a light and airy studio space and a yurt. Willow arches provide a natural barrier from the elements and, during the winter months, a canopy is erected to offer shelter. The emphasis is on dressing the children appropriately for the conditions. The Forest School is left to grow wild – if children want to make a path through the nettles that spring up during the summer months, they’re taught that nettles sting and are encouraged to work together to beat them down with sticks.
Forest School teacher Sarah Saunders said, “They had such fun when it snowed, following animal and bird tracks. We find that children respect the rules here because the rules have a point – they are there to keep them safe. We also find that we have fewer behavioural issues in the forest school and that social issues are less of a factor; children that might struggle in a traditional nursery setting often excel here. We know what skills and knowledge children need to develop, this is skillfully taught as we allow the curriculum to be led by their interests and led by nature. Forest School is all about finding yourself.
In keeping with Maslow’s hierarchy of need, the focus is on ensuring that the children’s basic needs are met, particularly in winter, when our baseline is to make sure that they’re warm and well-fed.”
Claire White added: “We do still offer the traditional nursery provision too, but the Outdoor Nursery and Forest School gives parents and their children a choice. Many of our children opt to spend some time in each and, during outdoor time, we have a free-flow system in place so that children from the main nursery building can visit the forest school if they’d like to. We want our children to be curious.”
The Chairman of the Nursery’s governing body, John Whittle, commented: “What we have here is very special. Maintained nurseries are the jewel in the crown of our education system and research shows that this is the most important stage of education. At this age, children’s brains are like sponges and the early intervention that we can offer here is absolutely key. Our goal is to raise children’s aspirations; we want to show them that they can be anything that they want to be. The development of the Outdoor Nursery and Forest School takes the values that have always been central to what we do here a step further. It means that we can offer something very specialist that is not currently available anywhere else in Hull and East Yorkshire.”
The results speak for themselves, as Claire explains. “Nationally, girls generally progress better than boys in nursery and the gap then widens between Key Stages 1 and 2, but we find that our boys are bucking the trend. Our children leave here incredibly well prepared for their future education, but also for life.”
Hornsea Nursery School is staging a Family Fun Day on Saturday 30th June. Families are welcome to go along between 10.30 am and 1.30 pm to see the facilities for themselves and try their hand at some of the activities on offer in both the main nursery and the outdoor nursery and forest school.
Dates for Your Diary
- Monday 25th June 1.30-3 pm, Baby & Toddler @ Hornsea Nursery
- Friday 29th June 9.30-11 am, Make, Bake & Take @ Hornsea Nursery
- Saturday 30th June 10.30 am-1.30 pm, Family Fun Day @ Horsea Nursery
- Monday 2nd July 1.30-3 pm, Baby & Toddler @ Hornsea Nursery
- Friday 6th 9.30-11 am, Make, Bake & Take @ Hornsea Nursery
- Monday 9th July 1.30-3 pm, Baby & Toddler @ Hornsea Nursery
- Friday 13th July 9.30-11 am, Make, Bake & Take @ Hornsea Nursery
- Monday 16th July 1.30-3 pm, Baby & Toddler @ Hornsea Nursery
- Friday 20th July 9.30-11 am, Make, Bake & Take @ Hornsea Nursery
- Friday 20th July BREAK UP FOR THE SUMMER HOLIDAYS
Visit our website: http://www.hornseanurseryschool.co.uk/
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Call us on: 01964 534396