Step Ahead Teacher with children

Farm Days

Dawn Haora talks on our environment is the third teacher and the benefits of Step Ahead's weekly Farm visits.

Farm Days! The Third Teacher?

The teachers at Step Ahead strongly advocate that “our environment is the third teacher”. It can be said that we the teachers, are the directors of this environment inventing, arranging and creating a setting that children will want to learn in. The aesthetically pleasing provocations throughout the centre provide the children opportunities to explore, investigate, problem solve and test their own hypotheses (Walker, K., 2007).


We believe this environment should not be limited to the inside of the centre and it is for this reason that at Step Ahead we provide an opportunity to explore all the beauty of the outdoors when we go beyond our fence and visit a local lifestyle block weekly.

What we as teachers create daily comes innately to the natural world so it makes perfect sense to take this opportunity to explore another environment so beautiful and worthy of respect. It can be said that there is no way that we can help children to love nature and preserve this planet, if we don’t give them direct experiences with the miracles and blessings of nature’ (Olds, A.,2001).

The outdoors provides children with greater opportunities for independence than a more controlled indoor space (Baldock, 2001). ‘Rich sensory experiences that are so vital for optimal brain development are readily available in nature. Playing with sand at the beach, feeling the bark on trees, smelling flowers, or listening to birds singing, enjoyed with a parent (or in this case a teacher) all   provide stimulation prompting brain connections to form. Sensory experiences can be a messy business and children benefit from being able to enjoy such experiences fully, without anyone worrying about the washing’ (O’Neill, 2014 as citied Brainwave Trust Aotearoa).

These experiences are just one of the many benefits of children being outdoors. But for the child…, it is not half as important to know, as to feel.

Dawn Haora


  1. Baldock, P.(2006) . The Place of Narrative in the Early Years Curriculum. London: Routledge.
  2. O’Neill, K., as cited in Brain wave Trust Aotearoa 2014. First published Brainwave Trust Newsletter Issue 9, June 2009.
  3. Olds, Anita, Children Come First Video, 2001 produce by Community Playthings.
  4. Walker, K. (2007) Play Matters: Engaging children in Learning. The Australian developmental Curriculum: A play based and project based philosophy. Camberwell: ACER Press.