A Progressive Setting

Paying attention to the emotions of children as well as their intellect

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At Nurture Outdoor Kindergarten, we place special emphasis on social-emotional development. We help children to navigate the everyday social and emotional challenges that young children face, make sense of their internal world, and develop the ability to self-regulate their internal states. This in turn helps them to grow into emotionally healthy young adults, preparing them for a future that is far different than the graduate-hire-retire framework their grandparents stepped into decades ago. Children thrive when they are able to work flexibly, creatively, and cooperatively — all skills we seek to foster through the Nature Nurtures Approach.

A child centred approach: following children’s interests

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Our focus is on responding in the moment to children’s unique interests. This takes skill and places a high demand on practitioners’ focus and knowledge of each child at NOK. It’s worth it as truly meaningful experiential learning happens when children are intrinsically motivated.

Experiential Learning

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Our children spend a significant part of their day outside, learning through direct, hands-on experience of the world around them. Through play they test out theories and expand schemas of knowledge. They take risks, both physically and emotionally. Often there are challenges, struggles and frustrations - all of which are essential for mental and physical growth. Learning is full of ups and downs - this is what being a human being is all about. The key is learning ways to manage challenge, and to see failure not as an endpoint, but as a key step in working something out. We encourage children to develop a growth mindset, and to understand that perseverance and determination are necessary for achieving personal goals.

Trusting children to learn

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We trust that children will take next steps when they are ready to do so. We trust that they know what they need to learn, and when. We value a readiness model, where children are not pushed on to the next learning goal before they are ready.

If we are too anxious to see the finished product then we do not pay sufficient attention to the foundations, and the building ultimately collapses. Foundations must be broad and deep; they must be flexible; they just compensate for buildings that are under stress. Most important of all, foundations take longer to create than buildings, so it is vital that we resist the temptation to move children on too soon and attempt to build too high, before the foundations of learning are securely in place.Julie Fisher

Authentic Assessments - less testing and ranking

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We understand the importance of assessment. Having been on an exciting journey which has seen our assessment process evolve to one that fits within our sense of the progressive approach, we believe that assessment should focus on measuring what really matters. By getting to know each child, we can assess to determine that the progress made is right for each individual child.

Community and a democratic society

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Learning about the world and our community is an important part of each child’s journey with us. Here at Nurture Outdoor Kindergarten we strive to prepare children for:

...active participation in a democratic society, in the context of a child-centered environment, and with an enduring commitment to social justice.Tom Little

We do so through our small community events, a regular shared family breakfast, supporting the wider Top Barn community where possible, and encouraging each child to see that they can change the world for the better.


Recommended reading on progressive education:

Alfie Kohn, Progressive Education: Why it’s Hard to Beat, but also Hard to Find (2008)

Tom Little and Katherine Ellison, Loving Learning: How Progressive Education Can Save America's Schools (2015)

Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods (2005)