Research – and many years experience working with children – tells us that when children can freely play outside their learning and well-being is enhanced. They learn physical skills, like balancing, running, leaping, and climbing. They learn social skills, like cooperation, negotiation, problem-solving, and role-playing. They learn practical skills like fire safety, knife work, cookery and den-building. They learn personal skills such as independence, self-motivation, persistence, creativity and managing risk. They learn ‘traditional’ educational skills, like maths, language, storytelling, drama, and music. Most importantly, they learn how to become a community of confident, resilient, learners.
In the company of our small team of warm, caring adults, being outdoors gives children freedom to explore, problem solve, investigate and ‘be’, enabling them to develop socially, emotionally and academically with a true connection to the natural world.
Truly meaningful learning happens not by telling children what they must learn, but by joining them and supporting them on their own journeys of discovery. When children direct their learning – choosing what to do and how to do it – in a rich and exciting environment they develop their ability to think, be creative, problem solve and imagine. At Outside Tribe, themes emerge naturally as the seasons change and the children’s interests spark new projects and investigations. Our skilled adults work alongside the children and support them ‘in the moment’ to develop their individual talents and interests.
Our natural setting is central in supporting this very dynamic approach to learning as it provides such a rich environment for children. There are endless sights, smells and sounds which change day to day and through the year, inviting the children to explore and be curious. Without the confines of four walls, and roofed only by the sky, children are free to move – to run, jump, roll, skip and climb, and are free to be noisy, or to find their own place to be calm and feel the peace of the natural world. It is the perfect classroom and playground.
Play forms the foundation of all development and learning for young children and is vital for their well-being. Play allows children to develop intellectually, creatively, physically, socially and emotionally. The outdoor environment is perfect for supporting play in all it’s wonderful forms – active or boisterous, quiet or reflective, alone or in a group. Play outdoors has no boundaries and can go where the children take it. We have very few ‘toys’ at Outside Tribe, instead nature provides open ended resources – a stick becomes a magic wand, a tree is a play house, a fallen log becomes a horse to ride! Any resources we do provide are carefully chosen, open ended resources that the children can use in different ways. Children at Outside Tribe learn to use things creatively, become extremely resourceful and really develop their imaginations.
Part of our ethos is our commitment to remaining small and nurturing. We limit our numbers to 12 children a day, and with our 3 staff this means we have very high adult to child ratios, far exceeding the requirements set by OFSTED.
As well as keeping them safe, we think this gives children the best experience and care – time with each child is so precious and we want each child to feel connected and valued as an important part of our ‘family’, our ‘Outside Tribe’.
Of course, the is no typical day at Outside Tribe as we follow the children’s interests, moods and needs which are ever changing. We do follow a rhythm each day which gives children the familiarity they need to feel secure. Different seasons and weathers bring different riches to explore and different children bring their own idea of where their learning will take them, but here’s a flavour of what your child may get up to…
A walk across the meadow and we arrive at site. We gather together, sing a welcome song and a do a ‘safety check’ for the day. After this the children get straight to the very serious business of play!
Some children choose to play in the mud kitchen, playfully exploring scientific and mathematical concepts by mixing, pouring, and combining ingredients. Others run straight to the rope swings, developing social skills through negotiating taking turns and develop strength, co-ordination and balance.
Perhaps today, the children want to look for insects and children and adults head off together, magnifying glasses at the ready, to see what they can find. There are books and ID cards to hand and the adults help the children identify what they discover.
Some children are helping to prepare the mornings snack, maybe chopping fruit, or making bread, whilst in some may be planting in the vegetable patch or working with clay and natural materials they have collected.
Mid morning the group is gathered together at the log circle for a snack and a drink – in the winter something warming cooked over the fire, in the summer something cool. This is a time for sharing stories, singing songs, developing language and listening skills and enjoying being together as a group.
After snack some children decide to work in the tool area. An adult works with them helping them to select the wood they need for their project, ensuring they use the tools safely. They learn to manage risk and develop resilience as they persevere to hammer their wood together.
At lunchtime we gather again to eat. The children help to get the table ready counting and putting out the cups needed, or maybe today it will be a picnic on blankets under the apple trees. Adults and children always eat together, bringing their lunch from home. This is a social time, with children and adults talking about whatever might be interesting them that day and is always full of lots of laughter!
After lunch its time for more play. Of course, if some children need to rest they can cosy up in the cabin if it’s cold, or rest in hammocks under the trees, whilst others listen to a story.
Later there may be a walk to the beach, cooking, music or an art activity to get involved in. Children may be working together at times, and at other times be quietly involved on something on their own. A sudden downpour may bring new opportunities for learning, huddling under a tarpaulin and listening to the sound of the rain, collecting the water in buckets and using gutters to redirect it or simply enjoying the wonderfully sensory experience of jumping in those puddles!
Throughout the day maths, science, language, literacy, creativity, environmental and cultural awareness, social and emotional skills weave through the children’s experiences.
At the end of the afternoon the children gather one last time to reflect on the day’s adventures and sing our goodbye song. We walk back to parents muddy, tired…and happy.