Claire Warden at Mindstrechers - Scotland
Claire Warden. B.ED Hons, Dip Drama
CEO Mindstretchers Ltd
Claire Warden is an educational consultant who has developed her approach to experiential learning through a variety of experiences. Her experiences have taken her on a pathway that includes working in a variety of types of center, advisory work, and ultimately to lecturing in further education.
As a lecturer in Primary Education at Strathclyde University, the development of training strategies and course creation have been applied to the dynamic and creative work currently undertaken by the company she started called Mindstretchers. It has now grown to develop many aspects including Claire's Charity called' Living Classrooms' which works to connect children, families and community in the outdoor environment.
Mindstretchers was set up as a training consultancy in 1996, becoming in 1998 Mindstretchers Ltd. Mindstretchers is now a one stop location for educational professionals, whose multiple needs are covered, as specialised resources are sought out and developed, inspirational training occurs in a range of countries and Mindstretchers publishes its own range of books and training materials.
Claire Warden is an author of many books and materials relating to early years methodology. These include 'The Potential of a Puddle' that details National vision and values for outdoor play; 'Talking and Thinking Floorbooks' which presents the planning methodology that supports consultation and democracy in early education; 'The Right to be Me' which explores the rights of young children to high quality provision and 'Nurture through Nature' which explores working with children under three outside. 'Nature Kindergartens' explores children's connection to nature and naturalistic spaces such as Forest Schools, Forest Kindergartens, Woodland camps, Nature Kindergartens.
The pathway has taken her to set up Whistlebrae Nature Kindergarten and Auchlone Nature Kindergarten in Perth and Kinross, Scotland UK . These outdoor nurseries, work with children from 2-6 yrs old as well as offering after school care and holiday care for children up to 12 years. Children spend up to 90% time outside. The three spaces of inside, garden and the wild wood are designed to develop skills and confidence in the natural world. The whole environment is eco-friendly, down to fair trade resources, organic food and alternative energy sources.
Claire is one of a leadership group of consultants who make up the World Nature Collaborative. The purpose of the group is to develop a cohesive network and approach to experiential learning in outdoor spaces in a variety of climates. The nature collaborative brings together educators, landscape architects, environmentalists and health workers to support a multidisciplinary approach to outdoor educational provision. Claire is the European education coordinator and as such would invite you to join the collaborative and take forward children’s right to outdoor play around the world.
The company continues to work closely with Local Authorities to support all aspects of education from 0-11 years. Claire has written courses to meet the needs in home based environments such as childminders and shared day care spaces such as playgroups.
On Sunday, May 24th 2015, 28 educators from around the world met together in Crieff, Scotland to learn together, with Claire Warden, about how to engage their schools in a deeper understanding of Nature Pedagogy. That Sunday we met Claire and her staff and participated in a discussion of the importance of providing children with the opportunity to learn in nature. Claire’s point of view is clear, “My key points have always centered around the need to notice and document the lines of enquiry and fascination that move with children’s play across the physical spaces of being inside to outside, and then also into the spaces that sit beyond the fence- the beyond. After 28 years of being in the profession, wittering on about outdoor learning, I can sense that we still have children and families that have not felt the awe and wonder, but also the emotional calm that being in the natural world gives us. However, the more research I do and the more I see and hear, the more I feel that two things are happening in education and care. The first is the growing global movement of practitioners who are aware of the benefits of learning with nature. The second is an increase in the number of Nature Kindergartens or seeing going into ‘wilder spaces’.”
Monday, May 25th, our group met together in Fowlis Wester Kirk Community Center to continue our discussion. Then, after lunch we went with Claire to her school at Auchlone Nature Kindergarten to explore and experience practical sessions helping us to see Nature Pedagogy in action.
Tuesday, May 26th we visited the Cowgate Center in Edinburgh, which is an urban school with very limited space. We were able to see how a school with a small amount of property was able to design spaces utilizing nature in very effective and creative ways. To provide their children with more open spaces, or more “wild experiences in the beyond”, they utilized a nature center that was about a 20 minute drive from their center. Children, in groups, were transported to the nature center several days of the week.
Wednesday, May 27th our group was driven to a local conference center where we heard a variety of speakers who shared their experiences with Nature Pedagogy.
The first speaker was Anders Farstad who is the owner of three Nature Kindergartens in Norway. He spoke about the importance of using nature as the arena for active learning and the importance of gender role models in the schools.
Our second speaker was Carol Breedlove from the International School of Dusseldorf, Germany. She shared with us her school’s journey as they developed an outdoor learning experience for their preschool and primary grades. This school is very academically focused and their journey provides a good role model for Baldwin Academy.
Claire Warden was our third speaker. Her presentation focused on “Learning with Nature and Diagrams of Practice.” There are many possibilities and approaches as models for practice that can suit every setting so that every school can make outdoor learning part of the core teaching and learning objectives.
Kate Hookham was our final speaker. She is the Senior Trainer for Mindstretchers. She provided a practical session about the importance of “Risk” and “Risk Assessment” in play.
Thursday, May 28th our group traveled to visit a Crannog, which is a type of ancient loch-dwelling found throughout Scotland and Ireland dating from 2,500 years ago. We were able to see ancient crafts and tools and how they were used. This visit was meant to help us understand the importance of connecting children to the past and to local cultures to better understand how the world evolves. We were then given the opportunity to spend time in nature by taking a beautiful hike through a local Nature Preserve.
Friday, May 29th we met back at Fowlis Wester where we participated in practical workshops linked to outdoor learning skills. After lunch we met and worked together in groups to work through strategies of how to apply what we learned back in our own schools.
The entire week created thought provoking and practical ideas for us to take home to our schools.