At Fenton Barns Nursery, the surrounding countryside is as much part of the classroom as the well set up, purpose-designed log building.
Indeed, on a typical morning, the children come rushing in, wolf down their home-made breakfast, and head straight back outside into the extensive nursery garden, often for the whole day.
Fenton Barns is a Private Early Learning and Childcare Centre focusing on Outdoor Learning Experiences and Healthy Lifestyles and is based on Fenton Barns Farm near North Berwick. It provides a unique, high quality childcare facility, in purpose-built premises where the emphasis is firmly on the outdoors, healthy living and local food. This method of outdoor learning starts from the very beginning, when babies are taken for country walks, and continues into constructive activities for all age groups, led and directed by dedicated staff, and treated as a classroom session.
The setup extends to the children's food, with much of the weekly menu being produced from their own garden, where the children help sow and grow their own vegetables and produce. The rest of their food is sourced locally and all dishes are home made on site.
Fenton Barns places particular emphasis on recruitment and retention of excellent quality local staff and is committed to following Pre-Birth to 3 and Curriculum for Excellence. The staff are all specially trained for the outdoor learning approach, and are all long-serving, enthused by the ethos, methods and obvious satisfaction of the children throughout their sessions. Staff encourage learning through natural curiosity, communication, problem solving, building relationships, questioning and creativity. Other services e.g. building, cleaning etc. are all sourced locally and the nursery also frequently fundraises for local charities.
Particular aspects of the nursery's unique approach have been highlighted by the staff and parents as the fact that all the food is locally grown and hand made by the fantastic cooks; watching the children build a go-cart and working together to build something from scratch; the children being outside in the pouring rain and splashing in the biggest, muddiest puddle but always having a smile on their faces; the way the children run in enthusiastically in the morning and can't wait to finish their breakfast so they can get outside into the garden; and seeing the children grow in confidence every day.
The nursery works closely with the Care Inspectorate, Education Scotland and East Lothian Council to maximise resources and quality of service, and during its fifth anniversary year, co-founder Caroline Freeman is looking forward to continued success.
She commented: “We now look forward to the next five years and beyond, continuing to provide a friendly, homely environment, where children learn through play and quality lead experiences, using the extensive countryside on our doorstep as much as possible. We are excited to look ahead to helping future generations of children to grow and thrive.”