When a group of early years professionals from Australia visited Scotland to find out more about advances in nature-based education one of their main stop-off points was Dunblane Nature Kindergarten.
Over the last two years the kindergarten has been transformed from a traditional indoor-based nursery to one where there’s a balance of indoor, outdoor and community based practice.
Steven White, project manager at Dunblane, said: “The trip was organised by a former colleague, Nicky Buchan, who moved to Australia several years ago and has been promoting visits to the UK to showcase examples of best practice and outdoor learning approaches.
“Our kindergarten has been undergoing some significant changes over the past two years. The Australian visitors came to see how that transition took place, and talk to staff about the process. They spent a day observing our practice and there followed an evening training session, led by Nicky. We’d also invited along Juliet Robertson, a leading consultant in outdoor education with both early years and primary school.”
Kara Doonan of the Care Inspectorate attended the evening session and she said: “It proved a great way of sharing experience and practice, and allowed the work that’s been done by the staff at Dunblane to be recognised by fellow professionals.”
Steven said the key factor that emerged was the distinctive approach of staff, which emphasises the application of child-led practice. “At Dunblane Nature Kindergarten our focus is on creating an environment where everyone is excited, enthused and motivated.”
Notably, what also became clear during discussions was Scotland’s pioneering role in the area of nature-based education. According to Steven there are many establishments engaging in outdoor risky play in this part of the world, and many more exploring ways of implementing it in their practice.
He said: “There is a great deal of interest in outdoor education in Australia, but they are at the stage of translating intent into practice. We were delighted to illustrate how that’s been achieved in Dunblane.”
Splashes of fun in the local stream