We are almost at the halfway point for 2021 registration season and to say things are a little different this year is an understatement. Human beings are an incredibly adaptive species, and of course necessity is the mother of invention! So it is that Stramash (the outdoors, muddy kids, loose parts people) have ‘gone digital’, and amazingly not totally crazy in the process!
We are super excited to announce a new project we have been working on recently and will be launching really soon. ‘Puddle Patter’ is our series of ‘in conversation’ interviews with our Fort William Team Leader and Head of Training for Stramash Cameron Sprague and various friends from our industry.
Initially a seed of an idea designed to explain a little more about why we do things the way we do, explain our overarching mission and values and give people a little more depth of insight into the science behind why what we do works. As we started to develop the idea however it became clear that this was an opportunity to amplify the voices of people in our industry, to share our collective message and for us to use our platform as a ‘window into this world’, ‘show our working out’, lean into our Social Enterprise philosophy and create something that keeps the conversation going at a time when it could not be more needed.
It goes a little further and a little more in depth than perhaps we’ve gone before, and we are here for it! Anyone who’s ever invited us to a party will know that the most dangerous question to ask us is ‘so what do you do?’…we are lucky to still have friends! Fortunately some of those friends have agreed to come chat with us, including a pretty famous blogging teacher! **no spoilers**
Jokes aside, this is not only for the uber nerds (like us!) or only the people who work in childcare and/or the outdoors (although you are of course more than welcome!). We also want families to watch these and to feel validated in their decision to choose us and settings like ours. We want prospective parents to watch these and feel emboldened to consider something they may not have done before and reassured that their concerns are totally natural and now eased. Fundamentally we want people to keep talking about and considering outdoor nursery as the legitimate early years choice it is.
The internet is full of experts (and videos, and videos of experts!) So why watch these? When filming them we really got a sense that these are reflective of the conversations that are happening all the time (well in ‘normal times!) At conferences, in muddy fields and in government board rooms. Since C19 we have seen an increase in interest in outdoor provision, we believe that what has historically been seen as a cottage industry, a phase or a fad is here to stay and for all the right reasons.
These videos facilitate another core value of ours ‘accessibility’. Information about what’s best for your child should be available to parents, all parents. In a variety of formats, in the places they are. Not only those with certain economic, social, cultural or educational backgrounds. You should be able to make an informed choice, how can you do that if you need a forest school qualification or to be working in education or early years to have access to this information, to be a part of these conversations?
We want people to see and understand that when we say that we are ‘child led’ it goes beyond a learning model ethos – although that is without a doubt critical to our delivery. This value is at the very core of Stramash. We believe that all children should have access to an early years outdoors, in a nurturing and play filled environment.
Sadly we believe it is more critical than ever that these environments are available for our children. The full social, psychological and physical effects of the pandemic on our youngest members of society are yet to be fully realised. For some children due to start nursery this year they will have lived ⅓ of their life under lockdown…take that in for a minute. ⅓ of their life with extremely limited social interaction, very little time spent with peers, with wider society, in the wider world, social distancing, stay at home orders, face coverings and for some families serious economic and health impacts in the home too. It would not be a stretch to consider this is a nationwide traumatic event.
Two things re-gifted to us by this time? Appreciation of the natural world and recognising how much we need human contact. The healing and comfort that nature and the outdoors can provide, the chance to play, learn and be a child in this environment is something we are privileged to be able to offer. We also know (another episode of Puddle Patter will cover this) that the key mitigating factor in the ability to move through adverse childhood experiences is the development of resilience – the ‘bounce-back-ability’ to get back up from failure and keep on going, to endure hardship and persevere. Outdoor nurseries like ours are key in developing this critical skill-set. Our settings, our teams and the natural world are ready to welcome these children, to support them to cultivate inner safety, resilience, regulation and to fully experience childhood.
Outdoor nursery and other settings that value connection, play and self directed learning need to own their place in the world. Not only as the perceived ‘fun option’ (even though it undoubtedly is!) But as the legitimate, developmentally appropriate, optimal for learning, early years environments that they are. We need to keep breaking out of our own echo chambers if we are to truly create change in the lives of children and childhood, as other countries have done before us (also featured in in an episode of Puddle Patter) These conversations seek to go some way to doing that.
Our branching out into new ways to communicate our message digitally, has not been without its setbacks. What story of determination and ‘resilience in the face of failure’ does not include a grown woman having to take several deep breaths and not throw her computer from the nearest window in the face of not one but two interviews disappearing into the ether!? It’s a good job that I’ve spent so much time in outdoor nursery! So after several cups of tea and some problem solving we prevailed. Puddle Patter is the result and we can’t wait to share it with you…stay tuned!