Crunching through frosted leaves, cracking ice, spotting red squirrels and warming snacks on the campfire – this is just some of what’s been going on at Wee Wild Sparks this winter.
Located near Coupar Angus, this is Perthshire’s first fully outdoor nursery; no classroom, no chairs and tables, just seven acres of beautiful, natural woodland.
Like any ordinary nursery, Wee Wild Sparks is registered with Care Inspectorate and supports children to learn across all areas of the curriculum.
As well as rhymes, stories and songs the children learn through their interaction with the natural world; the group share the forest with squirrels, deer, badgers, slugs, spiders, buzzards, and many other species. This experience helps them to develop a sense of responsibility for their environment.
The Wee Wild Sparks team is delighted to announce that families can experience a free taster at their spring open day on Saturday, March 31, or one of their Tuesday morning playgroup sessions (see listings below).
Jo, Wee Wild Sparks teacher-manager and co-founder, has taught in conventional indoor settings for over 15 years.
She said: “I’ve always been interested in outdoor learning but only now am I starting realise its full potential.
“Out here the children can really engage with their interests, enabling learning to take place on a much deeper level than in the classroom.”
The forest environment also lends itself to learning through active and exploratory play.
“The children are given plenty of time and space to lead their own play and explore,” explained Alice, Wee Wild Sparks co-founder. “This builds resilience, social skills and adaptability for their lives ahead.”
Its been a year since Wee Wild Sparks first opened their imaginary doors, meaning the group have weathered the full cycle of the seasons.
“People always ask about how we manage through the Scottish winter,” say Jo and Alice. “The truth is the children are so active its rarely a problem. We make sure everyone is really well layered up and keep a fire going on chilly days.”
In really tough weather the group retreat into a cosy bell tent that is heated by a wood burning stove, fuelled by logs the children have helped to gather, saw and stack.
Parents and children alike are responding positively to the nursery.
Emma is delighted with the service and changes she’s seen in her four-year-old daughter.
“Wee Wild Sparks has been fantastic. She’s super keen to head out to the woods and full of chat at the end of the day. She has become really independent, and is much more likely than her elder sister to get fully dressed herself, choosing the right layers to wear for the weather.
“She will often get home from the woods and head straight out to the garden. In turn, this gets the rest of the family outside more too!
“I really appreciate that the children learn to assess risk themselves through their play, whether this involves feeding branches onto a fire or using rope swings.
“We chose Wee Wild Sparks because we thought Katie needed a contrast to her other, more traditional pre-school setting. I was, and am still, very impressed by the staff’s dedication and commitment to the children and the outdoor setting.”
The nursery currently runs from 8.45am to 3.30pm on Monday and Tuesdays during term times, with space for up to 12 children at a time.
Join Wee Wild Sparks for a free taster during their spring open day on Saturday March 31 between 1-4pm or on Tuesday, February 20, March 6 or March 20 at their woodland playgroup sessions.
Visit the Wee Wild Sparks website or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Supported by Rural Perth & Kinross LEADER Programme 2014-2020: The European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development: Europe investing in rural areas.