Spending 3 hours a day learning and exploring outdoors plays an instrumental role in a child's early years development, combating not only obesity but further developing their mind and senses.  This is the philosophy behind Montessori graduate Avril Gruffery's Outdoor Explorers pre-school.  Since graduating from Portobello Institute with a Diploma in Montessori Training and a Certificate in Advanced Supervision in Childcare Avril knew she wanted to take this career path full time.  Previously an NCO in the Irish Defense Force, when  on a leave of absence Avril was eager to expand her horizons and learn new things and decided to retrain.  With a keen interest in childcare she set about retraining in this sector.  Opting for part-time courses provided the perfect spring board for Avril to educate in the early years sector.

Avril says "I loved the Montessori course as it planted the seed of what I wanted to do and showed me that it was achievable. Part 2 was harder in the sense that I was working full time and had very little hands on time available to me with children for observing and reporting but I got through it thanks to my lecturers (Martina) eagerness and love of the outdoors concept and her helpfulness".

Avril decided to go ahead with her idea of opening an outdoor preschool whilst working in another preschool setting and saw how much happier the children were outdoors even for the short time they were outside. She started researching in to this set up and while on a short break in Donegal she came across the Glen Preschool in Letterkenny and called in for a visit to talk to the owner. With many questions and concerns on setting up an outdoor pre-school Sally, the proprietor of Glen Preschool was fully supportive and was very helpful laying any fears Avril had to rest.  In January 2013 Avril started to put her plan into action and after a lot of hard work Outdoors Explorers opened its doors in Septemnber2013.  "We are constantly building the school" says Avril.  "Even so far as changing ideas half way through because we started to see how the kids would see it" 

Avril states "The outdoor aspect of my school benefits our children because they are allowed to express their feelings in so many more ways.  In a normal setting a child will sit at desk and paint where at Outdoor Explorers the children will all draw a picture during the day but one may use the chalkboard, another draws on the concrete trike area while yet another child is drawing in the sand; these are just a few of the ways that our Explorers can express themselves, and yes all those activities are regularly done in the rain not that the kids notice, to them the rain is just another way to use our senses. I firmly believe that if we all had 3 hrs a day outside when we were 3 years of age, obesity would not be the problem it is today as it is we are fighting a real battle against obesity and diabetes that can only be won by educating our children now and hopefully in 25 years time these ailments will be in sharp decline.  The Preschool years are vitally important for children in order to get a head start in life.  The better their skills such as socialization, conflict resolution and problem solving are the more capable they will be in later years" 

Following on from the success of Outdoors Explorers in Castlebar Avril has plans already in place to open a second school in September 2014 in GlenCorrib, Co Mayo and her team are currently working on the outdoor side of things to get it ready for their upcoming open day on Sunday June 8th from 1030 to 1200. The real success of Avril's outdoor school is not only happy children in the environment she has created but the feedback from the parents.   One parents commented "The outdoor education has had a far reaching impact on my daughter. I love how she looks out the window even on a really bad day and lets me know all the adventures we can have so long as we zip our coats up and stick on our wellies", while another said "The children are eager to get in there quickly every morning but move more slowly when its time to go home. This speaks for itself".