In this age of health and safety legislation, of our media obsessed with the dangers lying ‘out there' waiting for our children, where watching a screen of one kind or another is the default position at home, some educationalists are yearning to set children free.
Sue Palmer, author of Toxic Childhood says, 'trees, branches, grit and mud are all fabulous teaching resources; playing with nature is what children were simply born to do. Think of how happily children can play on a sloped piece of grass; rolling, running, and hopping down - it comes instinctively.' Yet in actuality, on the front line in schools and nurseries, recent years have seen schools and local authorities curbing their chances of adventure for fear of litigation should an accident occur.
The Secret Garden Nursery in Fife, opened in 2008 and is certainly a counter balance to this common over-protection. 'Here we are in the woods with pre-school children; climbing trees, warming ourselves with fires, supporting the creation of their own magic. We have no toys, limited practical resources but plenty of space and opportunity to go where the imagination may take us,' says proud founder Cathy Bache.
Whilst there are now more than 700 Waldkindergärten (forest nurseries) in Germany, The Secret Garden is one of less than 10 such nurseries in the UK. It was a large lottery backing, from the Lottery-funded Awards for All scheme, that helped Cathy get going.
Initially finding the staff proved problematic; 'getting the…
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