Out in all weathers: Britain's secret garden nursery
Date: Saturday, November 18 2006
Perhaps not "Environment" the way we normally think of it, but environment just the same...........
In the past year and a half, childminder Cathy Bache hasn't spent a single day indoors with any of the 17 toddlers in her care.
Instead, in rain or shine, hail or snow, they spend all day every day playing in the garden, running in the woods, picnicking in the tree-house or building mud dams on the stream.
With 22 years' experience of teaching young children, Bache is convinced outdoor education is the way forward, and now she plans to open Britain's first totally open-air nursery in Scotland, one of the coldest areas of the country.
"As a nursery teacher, I found that being indoors with small children with very little space was stressful for me as an adult, so I imagine for a child it's even worse," Bache says.
"You can't really get more egocentric than a three-year-old -- and indoors they're all so close together, they bump into each other and get upset, and there are all those toys to fight over."
"Outdoors there's a lot of space, a lot of freedom and a lot of independence."
At the Secret Garden, the only shelter will be a wattle and daub structure with no walls.
There will be no toys. The children will be encouraged instead to play with the toys nature provides -- sticks and leaves, mud and rainwater, fir cones and acorns.
Bache firmly believes there is no such thing as bad weather, just inadequate clothing, and she says children love being out in all weathers.
Bache got the outdoor idea from Norway, where she lived for four years with her own three children and saw early education rooted in the outside world.
She was struck by the vitality of children cared for in outdoor kindergartens there.
By George! I think she's got it!