Farm School

Our Farm School

Calling ourselves a ‘nursery school’ or a ‘forest school’ simply doesn’t do justice to the opportunities our Mini Explorers are given, and so the term ‘Farm School’ was coined.

Our nursery lies at the heart of our own fully-working arable farm, and our children are given the opportunity to immerse themselves in the farming landscape and its inhabitants every day.

We believe passionately in the importance of exposing children to the natural world at every opportunity in order to grow their confidence, further their understanding of the world about, assist in their cognitive and physical development, and improve their health and well-being.

From our very smallest hatchlings in our baby room to our pre-school fledglings, all our Mini Explorers are given daily opportunities to explore the farm and the beautiful countryside around us, and learn about the natural world, food production, animal welfare and the farming landscape of Crabtree Hall.

Animal adventures

We have built up quite a menagerie since Mini Explorers first opened in 2012. At last rollcall we could boast ponies, sheep, goats, alpacas, chickens, rabbits, guinea pigs, bearded dragons, fish, hamsters and three very friendly dogs. Our Mini Explorers love getting to know all our animals, and thoroughly enjoy helping to feed and care for them. They are always transfixed by new life coming onto the farm. From lambing in spring to egg-hatching in summer, and the occasional baby boom when we miss-sex our hamsters, there is never a dull moment!

Out on the farm

Farmer Mark is our resident arable farmer and is a fantastic advocate for all that he does. He can often be found striding out across the fields, closely followed by a gaggle of enthusiastic toddlers. He introduces the children to all aspects of his work, from ploughing and crop rotation to drilling and harvesting. And then there are the tractors and the big, noisy farm machines… who doesn’t love a big blue tractor?!

Muddy Green Fingers

Aside from learning about our arable crops and animals, our Mini Explorers also grow and nurture their own fruit, vegetables and herbs in the polytunnels and the thriving nursery gardens of The Paddock. This is a hugely hands on (and sometimes very muddy!) experience, and our children love to immerse themselves in every aspect of the growing process from planting, watering and propagating, through to harvesting, cooking, baking and eating. Yum!

Naturalists in the making

Mrs Hayden is our treasured outdoor learning expert who works predominantly with our pre-school children. As a qualified primary school teacher and a trained Forest School Leader, Mrs Hayden takes the children out on all sorts of adventures and discovery missions about the farm.

Sometimes she can be found perched on a tree stump surrounded by a group of children all eagerly sawing at sticks (stick whittling is an essential life skill for all our Mini Explorers!). Other times she can be found waist deep in a field of corn searching for invertebrates and insects for a living zoology lesson. If you look closely, you might even catch a glimpse of the heads of her tiny pupils poking out above the fronds of swaying corn!

The benefits of outdoor learning are many. In particular, it has been shown to increase children’s self-esteem, confidence and emotional intelligence. This has a positive impact on a child’s ability to concentrate and learn, which is particularly important for our ‘soon-to-be-at-big-school’ pre-schoolers.

Health, safety and hygiene

Farms are living, working environments and the health, safety and hygiene of our Mini Explorers is at the heart of all our practises. All our outdoor activities are overseen by highly-trained childcare practitioners and specialist teachers. We actively encourage unfettered exploration, but please be assured that there will always be watchful pair of eyes and a ready pair of hands to step in and curb enthusiasms when safety is at risk.

Animal interaction is always very closely supervised, and only the quietest and most docile of characters are allowed to take up residence on the farm. All our childcare practitioners are fully paediatric First Aid trained, and hand washing and cleanliness after animal handling and outdoor activity is an immutable part of our daily routine.

The UK's first Farm School Nursery
"Never work with children or animals they told us. You know what, we love working with both!"