Friday, 6 December 2013

Outdoor Play Party - Guest post from Cornwall



For this fortnightly OPP I'm delighted to have Martin Besford from Highway Farm Activity Centre contributing a guest post & providing images of his amazing outdoor preschool in Redruth in Cornwall.
Martin & I became friends via Facebook & then were fortunate enough to meet up in person during the #PlayIceland 2013 conference organised by Fafu .

Whilst Highway Farm Activity Centre has been on the site for over 10 years the outdoor pre-school only started in January 2011. As Martin explains it was "Started due to parents demands that children loved coming in the holidays and being outside all day and our ethos. We had the staff experience and qualifications to do it." It was also the type of pre-school experience that Martin & his wife wanted for their own 2 children. he then adds, "We operate in an Eco friendly Timber building with a back to basics, cosy atmosphere. The building is heated by a log burner and water heated on it. We have a compost toilet and are wrapped internally with carbon zero insulation. We try to offer the best of both worlds with a secure natural indoor space, a stimulating and challenging outdoor, enclosed area for free flow. All surrounded by an acre and a half field for the freedom and exhilaration the natural outdoors has to offer."

The preschool sessions - known as Little Explorers - run from 8-1 and 15 of those hours are free through government funding. However the setting also runs sessions from 1-3.30 and an after schools session until 6. It is quite possible for some children to attend from 8-6 & the setting is open all year round. They take children from 3 years old until they start school and offer the free entitlement funding from the term after a child is 3. They base their EYFS curriculum around the outdoors and nature and are outdoors in all weathers for the majority of the day.They have also fully adopted the Healthy Early Years Program within our setting and believe these opportunities give children flexible ways of working with and in nature to develop and learn. They support and encourage children through outdoor learning to develop their emotional confidence and self esteem. Children are also supported and encouraged to manage their own risks and to develop their life skills through using the correct tools for a purpose. 


As the farm is run as a community interest group it can now access funding and was successful in a bid to Awards for All for lottery money to build an outdoor kitchen. This amazing space means that the children eat outside every day but not out in the elements. I love the way the whole site seems to be in constant development & new pieces are being added to all the time. It means that there are so many different areas on the site for the children to explore & grown into. 
The amazing outdoor kitchen area.

There seems to be an amazing family feel to the whole organisation & they organise between 6-8 family days throughout the year when all family members are more than welcome to come along & join in & even learn some new skills, like how to cook pizza in their fabulous pizza oven.

I can see why so many of the children who have attended Little Explorers come back every summer when they start school as it means they get to revisit so many of their favourite activities e.g. cooking marshmallows on the fire and whittling.
"A typical day is spent collecting the eggs from the chickens, feeding and caring for the rabbits, cooking snack over the camp fire, building dens to story tell in and children initiating their own play and learning. The children tend to the fruit and vegetables they grow on site and ensure they are watered and nurtured, ready for them to select and prepare for their snack. Opportunities are presented through the outdoors in a range of purposeful contexts for children to appreciate and respect nature. Most of our resources are from natural materials found in the local environment. We plant, nurture, harvest and eat vegetables and fruit and incorporate physical opportunities into every day activities." - now doesn't that sound like the most idyllic way for any 3 -4 year olds to spend the day?
I have visited 2 outdoor preschools now, one in Scotland & one in Donegal, Ireland and I now hope to go over in July and spend some time at Little Explorers and Highway Farm to see what ideas & tips I can bring back to my setting. I am also excited to have Martin coming over to visit my setting early next year, I may just kidnap him until he builds me an outdoor shelter for Bear Woods!!

There were again so many great posts linked up in the last OPP and it was great to see summer posts from Australia mixed in with Wintery ones from over here. But as a nursery teacher the one that I loved the most was on an urban beach visit from Creative Star Learning Company.
  • Any kind of children's outdoor play-related posts are welcome!


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10 comments:

  1. Great post, Martin and Kierna! Just love the photos and the story.

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    1. Thanks Lesley, it was fun to work together on this post.

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  2. A beautiful farm and some very lucky children.

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    1. Idyllic place to go to preschool huh?

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  3. Wow, this place looks fabulous!! We need one in this part of the world! I'd kidnap him too if I were you :-)

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    1. What a perfect place to go to pre school or go to during the school holidays.

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  4. Wow, an amazing preschool, what great facilities. I hope you get loads of ideas from your visit.

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  5. I know I always say this when I read stories like these but wow, how I wish I were able to send my kids to a place like this! I think I just need to resign to the fact that I have to make my own little "nature preschool" at home:o)

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    1. Don't stress too much, Linda, you are providing great outdoor opportunities for hour kids that many never get to have xxx

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