The children and young people who attend Nature Nurture programmes will have had or are currently affected by at least one Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE). These might include but are not restricted to – Physical abuse, Sexual abuse, Emotional abuse, Physical neglect, Emotional neglect, Mother treated violently, Household substance abuse, Household mental illness, Parental separation or divorce and Incarcerated household member
85% experience disrupted schooling due to the mental, emotional and social challenges they face as a result of their life circumstances.
This project will benefit any vulnerable child including:
• Children who have early childhood traumas or have experienced neglect or have attachment disorders
• Children who are from families affected by substance misuse, alcohol abuse or domestic violence
• Children who are anxious or depressed
• Children who struggle with learning difficulties such as ADHD
• Children whose attendance at school is poor or who have been excluded
• Children who present challenging behaviours
• Children who are shy, withdrawn or who lack self confidence
• Children on the At Risk register
• Children who are looked after under the Children’s Act(1989)
The Children Programs
Each Nature Nurture programme takes place in a specific area of the Camphill Schools Aberdeen estates. We journey around a set route that encompasses areas for stimulating play and nature experiences. The routes are created to give each child the challenges and learning opportunities they need to become more resilient. We are outside in all weathers and the children are supplied with extra warm clothes, waterproofs, wellington boots, warm socks, scarves and hats. All our children love to be out in the elements as long as they are properly clothed. We sometimes change our route and include large, open areas such as fields and meadows in which to play, and visit different areas of the estate to introduce extra activities such as pizza making, willow work, apple pressing, visiting different animals and fruit and vegetable picking.
We are currently running one programme for children under five years old. These sessions take place every Tuesday afternoon on Murtle Estate in Bieldside, Aberdeen. There are six children presently attending and we will welcome two new members to our group after the Christmas break. We have a specific small woodland on the edge of the estate which we use for our youngest children to meet their appropriate developmental requirements. Our sessions begin in Mica Kindergarten where the children get dressed in their wellie boots, waterproofs, hats and gloves. We use singing and music throughout each transition of the session. We then make our way slowly up to the under-five’s Nature Nurture woods where the children play as they please. The children engage in unstructured, child-led play and as a result, our sessions change each time. We follow a loosely structured route through the woods, stopping first to play on the balancing logs at the edge of the woods and then move on to the barrel houses and climbing tree. We then journey on to our snack area for fruit bread and hot chocolate. After snack the children then go on further in the woods to play with the musical instruments, blackboard, mud kitchen and we usually all end up in the water play area. The children also enjoy visiting the sheep on the far side of the woods. Each session lasts around two hours and culminates in our journey back to Mica where we all sing goodbye and the children take the minibus home.
Five – Eight Year’s Old
We have nine children currently attending our five-eight year’s old program. These sessions also take place on Murtle Estate on Tuesdays but they take place in the mornings. We use a different route for the older children, utilising a larger expanse of forest, allowing us to build a campfire and make use of the stream which runs throughout the estate. Like the younger children, the five-eights begin in Mica Kindergarten, but we make our way to a small playground which has a sand pit, swings, a see-saw and a large green slope to roll down. After playing here for a while, we walk down to the woodland and gather around our campfire area. Here the children go through the fire rules and decide who will light the fire and who will collect wood for the fire. Once our jobs are all done, the children go off to play in the woods. Many of them enjoy playing down by the stream, digging and catching little water creatures. Others enjoy playing on the zip wire. Within this group the children are introduced to bush craft skills such as sawing, knife use and fire lighting. As the children progress in their skills development and confidence, they like to utilise their skills in advancing their play, creativity and interests. We eat snack together around the campfire and toast marshmallows. As with all the programmes at Nature Nurture, activities and play are unstructured and child-centred, each session coming alive with the children’s natural curiosity and interests. Our day ends back in Mica where we all say goodbye.
Eight – Eleven Year’s Old
The 8-11’s program takes place on Camphill Estate, a few miles down the road from Murtle. This estate offers a slightly more complex and challenging terrain for our oldest children. Their Nature Nurture sessions take place each week on Thursday mornings. On this site we have a dedicated Nature Nurture room where we initially meet, get ready and look over the session plan together. In this group particularly, the child-centred ethos that drives our practice is extended beyond the children’s play towards beginning to encourage the children to become more independent. We seek to encourage children to actively contribute to the planning of the sessions with ideas and suggests and also help structure and lead. The children are eager to take on the responsibilities of keeping themselves and everyone in the group safe; actively risk assessing and revising safety rules around roads, fire, climbing etc. Leaving the Nature Nurture room, we make our way to a big grassy slope where the children like to play on the rope swing, visit the donkeys, climbing trees and playing sports on the grass. The group then makes their way through the woods to our campfire where we go through the fire rules and decide who will light the fire and collect wood. The forest we use for our oldest children is considerably larger than the other Nature Nurture sites, allowing for the exploration and discovery of the natural world that this age group desire. The children enjoy building dens, learning to tie knots, making bows and arrows and engaging in elaborate imaginative group games. Our time here is often very active, vibrant and joyful. Our sessions end back in the Nature Nurture room before the children board the minibus and go back to school.
Two spaces in each session are offered to parents. During these visits parents are supported by the Nature Nurture team in observing and discussing their child’s play and experiences. We help parents to plan for similar outdoor play opportunities for their children and identify safe and accessible greenspace in their local area. For many parents these visits to the project can be as much a therapeutic experience as it is for their children. Many discover or rediscover the joys of exploring natural environments. Many parents feel empowered and inspired when they see their children play freely and interact in positive ways with others. Most feel enormous pride when they see their child’s confidence and developing skills.
After every session a member of the Nature Nurture team takes the children home, making time for family members to ask questions and receive feedback on their child’s accomplishments during the session. For many parents this is the first time they have had positive feedback about their child. These meetings are invaluable and for many family members it can be the first steps towards understanding their children’s strengths and needs and a springboard into more positive and nurturing relationships within the family.
With continued funding we have been able to begin planning additional programmes alongside the existing under 5’s, 5-8’s and 8-11’s.
Ann’s Under 5’s Group
Ann Stevens was a volunteer at Nature Nurture for many years and was an incredibly gifted and loving practitioner. Her work with all our children has been inspiring, both for those who worked with her and to the Nature Nurture Project as a whole. It was with much sadness that we learnt that Ann passed away after losing her battle with cancer in November. Before she died, Ann and her husband Dick had decided that they would like to make a donation to the Nature Nurture Project. As a way of expressing our sincerest gratitude and to keep Ann’s memory and her contributions to this project alive, we would like to use this incredibly generous donation from Ann and Dick to set up a new under 5’s group in the Seaton area of Aberdeen City. This programme will be known as ‘Ann’s Group’. We are hoping to begin running this programme early next year and look forward to welcoming many new children to Nature Nurture.
We are currently only running groups with children up to the age of 11. While at Nature Nurture we allow each child to decide when they are ready to leave us, we do not, at present, have a dedicated programme for teenagers. This is something we would like to begin developing in 2017 and we hope to begin running pilot programmes in the latter part of the year. This venture requires careful planning to ensure that the programme appropriately meets the needs of the specific age group while retaining the Nature Nurture core ethos at its centre. Continuing to support children into secondary school and beyond is a key next step for Nature Nurture and we are excited to begin the process.
A prospective mothers group
Since its inception in 2009, the Nature Nurture Project has looked to extend its outreach to the local community and families of children who attend our service. While we encourage and welcome parents to join our Nature Nurture sessions, an ongoing ambition is to set up a programme specifically for young vulnerable pregnant women, aimed at supporting them throughout their pregnancy and the first months of their child’s life. Such a support group would seek to foster a sense of, safety, belonging, positivity and value in each individual. The hope is to provide an environment which facilitates individuals in discovering their own intrinsic abilities for resilience. This programme is still in its infancy and will need development and funding. Our hope is that over the next year we will be able to take positive steps towards providing such a scheme in the near future.
While funding is a substantial part of making these future programs possible, we are always looking for voluntary staff to help support us in providing this essential early intervention and therapeutic work. If you are interested in working with us, please click here for more information.
Nature Nurture only accepts referrals from Social Work, Education and Health professionals. If you wish to make a referral please contact firstname.lastname@example.org and request a referral form.