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Dr Claire Warden (Scotland)

The role of fantasy in the Early Years: From dreams to possibilities

Claire Warden is a thought leader in the world of nature pedagogy and educational thinking. She is an active and committed advocate for the natural world. Her professional endeavours bring into sharp focus the need for us to re-imagine our relationship with nature. Encouraging us to take better care of the beautiful planet we share with a diversity of other than human species. Claire is welcomed by learning communities across the globe. It is through her lectures, the sharing of nature stories and pedagogical practice, and authorship of numerous books that Claire invites us into the natural world. An invitation that introduces us to the learning and relational way of teaching that occurs within this infinite space. At the core of Claire’s thinking is the notion that we, as humans are an integral part of the natural world. We are a vital element of the world’s eco-system and spiritually connected to the land. In her work, Claire moves fluently between our spiritual and everyday experience of nature. Her deep understanding and sense of connectivity with the natural world is revealed as she delves into how we can genuinely integrate nature into all aspects of learning. Her advice is that we slow our frantic pace and watch as children fill themselves with all of the possibilities of learning with nature. To see the fascination and curiosity that nature sparks, that awakening sense of being at one with nature, of belonging. As a traveller of the world, Claire plants her feet firmly on the many lands that she visits. Whether it be the red desert of Northern Australia, the pristine sands of Fiji, or the mountainous terrain of the Canadian Rockies she takes time to experience the connection in multiple ways. An avid researcher and wise teacher, Claire gathers the stories of those lands, embraces the cultural richness and otherness of the peoples, generously shares her knowledge and achieves new learnings. On her travels, her constant companion, carried close, is her spiritual connection with the ancestral lands of her clan. Claire is ever delighted to visit, but always happy to return to her homeland - to hearth and home. 

Claire defines nature pedagogy as “the art of being with nature, inside, outside, and beyond.” It is this theory of teaching that underpins the philosophy of the award-winning Auchlone Nature Kindergarten in Perthshire, Scotland, which Claire founded in 2008. Auchlone offers three learning spaces for children - a natural space inside, a gently challenging outside space and then the wild wood, where children can feel the freedom of the natural environment. Being in the beyond, in the wild wood, resonates with Claire. It is the place she most loves to be. A magical location full of risk and challenge, awe and wonder. A place where we are called upon to operate at our highest level of being. A place far from the well-worn track, a space that opens our thinking to possibilities. It is perhaps in the wild wood, the beyond, that we discover our dreams, our capacity to find creative solutions and our inspiration for our future.

International educational consultant, researcher, advisor and author.

PhD. Thesis ‘The Creation and Theorisation of Nature Pedagogy’ 2019.

Founder of the not for profit Living Classrooms and the International Association of Nature.

Pedagogy. CEO of Claire Warden Ltd and Founder and Academic Advisor to the Mindstretchers Academy. international advisor to the Children and Nature Network, World Forum Foundation, International School Grounds Group and the board of National Trust Scotland.

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