Today we started off in the Fowlis Wester Village Hall where Claire welcomed us with The Gaelic welcome and Scottish touches (table decorations, shortbread, music). She then presented a talk on children in nature starting off with the Scottish education and regulatory system and then talking through the company mission statement "Everyone, everywhere and everything has potential" with delightful and humorous stories of some of her experiences.
Claire's talk on the brain and the importance of the 7 senses for childhood development caused us to reflect on our practice with humour added when we were asked to reflect on our individual brain dominance - some very interesting little conversations happened there! I felt that one of the important messages was that it was not the landscape or resources but the detail and the adult interaction that gives high quality learning. She talked about the importance of 'flow', of seeing through the lens of the parent and seeing barriers as opportunities.
After lunch we dressed in our wet weather gear and set off for Auchlone Nature Kindergarten. This is always an emotional moment for me as I was part of the creation of this dream of Claire's and have memories of stripping out old carpets, painting the inside in mid winter, adding the detail in the Kinderkitchen and of course writing benefit risk assessments and policies as the Head of both Whistlebrae and Auchlone Nature Kindergartens before I moved to Australia. It always feels as if I have come 'home' when I enter Auchlone. (Enough of the emotive stuff :-))
The Kinderkitchen is a purpose built structure in the garden where children have free access to the warmth of the wood burning stove while dressed in the all weather gear. The main posts of the structure came out of the kindergarten forests so the environmental impact is small. There is an area for children to snuggle up and rest if they want to, a large table that is the 'hub' of the kitchen and a counter where children help with the cooking and preparation of meals.
The garden space has a large new sandpit, a circle of trees, a vegetable garden, a hill, willow structures, a gravel/waterplay area and of course a fire pit! We were able to be with the children and observe how they use this space. The children were confident and very soon engaged the adults in a variety of activities, Shenoa and her mobile phone were a big attraction to one of the boys, cinnamon and cooking happened in the mud kitchen while Valerie was a brilliant stick 'fighter' with a group of boys who cleared the area of other adults and only invited Valerie onto the battle ground! A number of us mentioned the confidence of these children, the obvious flow of play, the children's ownership of the space even with so many 'strange' adults present.
The children took us into their forest space with them pulling and pushing a large trolley of their 'resources'. The toolwrap went up, a fire was lit and children and adults engaged with the environment.
The space the children use is large and includes a large pond/loch. Many of the group were challenged by the fact that the pond is not properly fenced but only has some snow netting along one side of it. Children were seen using the tools for a variety of purposes, cooking marshmallows, making popcorn on the fire, swinging in the tyre swing, climbing trees, sliding, role playing and often 'just being'. Adults sensitively scaffolded opportunities.
While in the forest Claire set us 3 challenges - to light a fire using the firesteel, to lash a frame and to use the tools to create something. I did see a number of tongues sticking out as adults engaged with this challenge.
At the end of the afternoon children gathered around the fire to reflect on their day and then it was our turn to share with Claire our thoughts. Many adults were still trying to absorb what they had seen and experienced and probably needed to go back to the hotel to think and reflect. We got back onto the bus tired, smelling of woodsmoke and with many happy thoughts to unpack.