03 Aug The Force of Nature
Accelerating academic and personal growth in the early years of education
The theme for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week and central to the UK Parliament’s new Environment Bill, nature is top of the agenda for 2021. Ahead of the trend, North Bridge House Nursery & Pre-Prep West Hampstead opened its doors last September to provide a unique Early Years education, centred entirely around continuation of the curriculum outdoors.
With sheltered teaching and outdoor play space, teachers can collapse the timetable and take any lesson outside at any given time. And with a vegetable garden, mud kitchen, timetabled Forest School and school pets, children connect with nature as part of their everyday life.
While access to nature has been directly linked to improved mental and physical health in the early years, one in five (21%) London households has no access to a garden (National Office for Statistics, May 2020). North Bridge House Nursery & Pre-Prep West Hampstead aims to create a greener future for children, providing a home from home that transforms their childhood experience when it matters most.
“The early years are fundamental to a child’s academic and personal development and to their future successes. Nature and outdoor learning provide the building blocks for educational achievement, developing all of creative, communication and language, maths and problem-solving skills,” says Head of School Eilish Sleator.
But for NBH Nursery & Pre-Prep West Hampstead, the force of nature promotes more than just the school’s pursuit for academic excellence, developing children socially, emotionally and physically in a society rife with childhood mental health and obesity concerns. With 50% of mental health problems established by age 14 (mentalhealth.org.uk), Head of School Eilish aims to promote wellbeing from the outset of children’s education, and school dog Wilson has proved invaluable to creating a wholesome environment for little ones starting out on their school career.
“Sometimes a child starting school has felt a little shy or anxious, but they have been greeted by Wilson at the door and immediately reassured. Some of our Nursery children are very young and therefore only just learning to communicate clearly and process their feelings, but if something is bothering them, a cuddle with Wilson always makes everything better!” continues Eilish.
NBH Nursery and Pre-Prep West Hampstead further builds on children’s affinity for animals and the natural world, often introducing guest residents such as caterpillars and ducklings to inspire pupils’ understanding of the world and their empathy towards others.
“The holistic development of children is integral to the approach we take here at NBH West Hampstead and connecting with the natural world is an important part of the Early Years curriculum, stimulating the imagination to think, question and hypothesise while inspiring that sense of wonder which motivates lifelong learning,” says the Head of School.
The school places particular emphasis on developing independence and self-confidence in pupils, harnessing the freedom of the great outdoors to facilitate learning by doing and experimenting with ideas. Each week the children attend Forest School, a 96-acre site which is full of new experiences and challenges to overcome.
“The unique woodland environment is naturally abundant with opportunities for children to explore and discover, work together, make decisions and learn from mistakes. In a natural world of opportunity, children feel empowered as they learn more about themselves and the environment around them,” explains Eilish.
A study by The Forestry Commission into physical activity at Forest School found that activity levels in Forest Schools are typically 2.2 times higher than during an active school day i.e. a day that includes PE. The study points out that, on average, children do not meet the daily recommended one hour of vigorous physical activity on a typical school day, while Forest School presents a novel way to promote better physical health and wellbeing, engaging boys and girls equally in active pursuits.
“NBH Nursery & Pre-Prep West Hampstead children are actively searching for animal habitats, building dens, or even swimming in the stream!” says the Head of School.
All the while, staff continue to assess each child through observation, gaining a better understanding of how they tackle new tasks so that support and teaching can then be tailored to the individual most effectively.
NBH Nursery & Pre-Prep West Hampstead presents a rather unique central London offer, taking children beyond the conventional constraints of the classroom and into the natural environment, where they are stimulated through all kinds of sensory, practical and organic experiences as part of their day-to-day education.
“Our aim is to create a healthy balance between a forward-thinking curriculum and the great outdoors, connecting the mind to nature and the wider world to develop key critical thinking skills in the formative years of education,” concludes NBH Nursery & Pre-Prep Head.
To find out more about North Bridge House Nursery and Pre-Prep West Hampstead, book your visit now: northbridgehouse.com/open
For more information, call 020 7428 1520 or email firstname.lastname@example.org