The Great Outdoors

“A child’s world is fresh and new and beautiful, full of wonder and excitement. It is our misfortune that for most of us that clear-eyed vision, that true instinct for what is beautiful and awe-inspiring, is dimmed and even lost before we reach adulthood” (“The Sense of Wonder” Rachel Carson, 1956)

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Nowhere is that sense of wonder so apparent than outdoors and in nature. At The Orchard we nurture that sense of wonder so natural to children and so integral to their thirst for learning.

Young children need outdoor play. When given the choice, the outdoors is where most children want to be and play outdoors is what they want most. Since its foundation 27 years ago, learning at the Orchard has always emphasized the importance of the outdoors, nature, and the natural environment. Young children thrive and their minds and bodies develop best when they have free access to stimulating outdoor environments where they are able to learn through play and real experiences.

The pioneers of Early Years Education such as Jean Piaget and Maria Montessori believed whole heartedly in the value of outdoor learning and in more recent times there has been a lot of interest in, and influence from, forest schools, derived mainly from Scandinavian Early Years practice. This is also now reflected in The Foundation Stage Curriculum in the UK.
In The Orchard’s early days we kept a menagerie of rabbits, guinea pigs, chickens and pygmy goats. The children practised their counting skills by seeing how many eggs the chickens had laid each day. They grew flowers, fruit, and vegetables, and particularly enjoy eating their produce!

We still do all these things, except the animals have now gone as we have developed their living space into a rich and diverse environment for the children. There are spaces for growing, areas for imaginative play, room for boisterous physical play, climbing, running bike riding and more. The outdoors is complementary to learning indoors and enhances and extends what we are able to offer children inside.