Saturday, 08 May 2021

Access to nature is paradise for children

WHEN Jenny Blain brought Montessori to Henley 25 years ago, establishing the Denning Montessori School,

WHEN Jenny Blain brought Montessori to Henley 25 years ago, establishing the Denning Montessori School, she deliberately didn’t go for a Henley town centre location.

Instead she went to a rural idyll, in Fawley, which is just eight minutes’ drive from Henley town centre.

She did this for one simple reason — she wanted to offer children the very best start in life and she knew that the only way to do that was to give children access to the great outdoors, and the best natural environment possible.

At the time, she pretty much had the choice of the best locations. She could have set up in many different places — there were very few nursery schools in Henley then — but Fawley was the number one choice.

When one of the UK’s top Montessorians visited the school and saw the children enjoying the stunning natural world, she said “You should rename the school Paradise Montessori” because the school offers a paradise for young children.

From the moment you turn off the Marlow Road opposite Toad Hall Garden Centre, children get to see the horses in the beautiful valley, which rises into the forest, where they are likely to see muntjac and deer — and if you look carefully you can sometimes see wallabies.

The view that children need contact with nature on a daily basis is championed by David Attenborough and many early-years education experts.

For more information on Denning Montessori School’s approach to early-years education, email or call her on 07982 620710.

It is not just a great learning environment — it makes children happier and healthier and can give children a love of nature and a connection to the natural world that can last them a lifetime.

The school has a huge safe outdoor area which children can access whenever they wish. Adjoining the school are fields the children get to visit, where they get to feed the sheep, walk through the vineyard, and into the long grass of the meadow, and into the private fenced-in forest, where the children have Forest School.

The children grow plants and tend the garden, feed the birds, dig the soil, build dens with sticks, and study wildlife and the natural world. And best of all, it is not in public areas.

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