Rain Barrel Farms
Especially online, there are a great deal of conversations concerning the impact of extended screen time on children, but are you familiar with programs that are helping kids have more outdoor learning time? Have you heard of Rain Barrel Farm? Kids’ World in Whatcom County is encouraging outdoor activity and independence through this innovative child care model. Kids’ World of Whatcom County and their Rain Barrel program is our provider spotlight this month, and we are happy to share their moving video with you.
” How It All Got Started, by Austin Flones
It started with a question. “What would happen if…?”
What would happen if we watched kids to find out what they’re really interested in? What would happen if we shaped environments to invite discovery, creativity and risk-taking? What would happen if the adults/teachers/parents stepped back a little more…little more… and let kids play?
These are the questions Kids’ World founder and president Michael Watters asked in a very serious way when the opportunity to purchase a small 100-year-old hay farm across the street from his childcare program in Ferndale, WA, presented itself.
Kids today are missing out on the critical work needed to build resilience, confidence and healthy social skills. The current research coming out of the child development world combined with over 25 years of observing and playing with kids made the answer clear. It was time to do something drastic. Crazy. EPIC.
What would happen if we turned a hay farm in to a play farm? A place where children could roam free, crouch like lions in the tall hay, make forts out of bales and blankets, plant and harvest pumpkins and potatoes? A place where shovels, dirt, worms, wild flowers and loose parts abounded? What would happen if we let kids make real stuff, with real tools? Could an 8-year-old manage it? A 6-year-old? How about a 4-year-old?
It’s been five years since Rain Barrel Farm made that leap. Over that time, we have gone from raking hay into piles to building giant hay bale castles. From one ornery rooster named Big Red to a giant pen of ducks, chickens, turkeys and even a one hairy pot-bellied pig named Jimmy. At the beginning, kids started out just hammering nails into blocks. Now they are sawing, drilling and sanding their way toward wherever their imagination carries them.
What would happen if? This video is just a snapshot of the answer to that question. Simply put, it lets kids let loose and be kids. As for the adults, the teachers…we’re there, always watching, but you probably won’t see us. Except for maybe Michael, the guy in the Jerry Garcia tie-dye. He’s there because, well, when you’re a 6-year-old cross-cutting a tree trunk, sometimes it helps to have a grown up around.
By necessity, much thought and strategy have been implemented in order to allow for the sort of risky free play we encourage. Our management approach has been refined over the years but its core tenets of “always observing” and “appropriate risk” enable the freedom to actually be contained and the risks to all be calculated. But the kids don’t know that. Shhh, don’t tell.
You don’t need a farm to do what these kids are doing. All you need is the right question to ask and the courage to pursue the answer.
If this kind of play captures your imagination and you are curious to know more about how we at Kids’ World do things up here in the rainy Northwest please, visit our website: https://www.kidsworldbellingham.com . Or shoot us a message on the comments below this video. We are always excited to talk play and share our process.
Thanks for watching!
Austin Flones, Program Director
Content originally posted on www.letgrow.org and reposted with permission from Michael Watters, Owner of Kids’ World.