McMillan Sisters

Getting kids outside is our top priority here at fairechild. In addition to all the stats about the benefits of being outdoors we are also inspired by a long history of educators who recognized the importance of kids doing what they do best – playing.

Image of the McMillian sisters teaching class outdoors.

It’s England in the early 1900’s, child labour is fast disappearing and school is becoming mandatory. It’s here that we find Margaret and Rachel McMillan, absolute saints and pioneers of their time. The sisters worked diligently to bring about reforms for children’s health and education in addition to fighting for universal suffrage. Margaret and Rachel campaigned for better conditions in schools and meals for underprivileged children. They knew that children could not learn while sick or hungry and believed that if education was made compulsory by the state, those children ought to be provided with proper nutrition. In 1906 the Provision of School Meals Act was passed in England.  

Image of the Mcmillian sisters with their students at the open-air nursery.

Together the sisters believed in nurturing the whole child and professed that children learn by exploring and could achieve their full potential through hands on experience and active learning – things we love here at fairechild! Fresh air and outdoor play were seen as key to a healthy childhood. This led the McMillans to open the first open-air nursery school in England, even coining the term ‘nursery school’.


Founded in 1914, the Open-Air Nursery School and Training Centre was the first of its kind. Here Margaret and Rachel McMillan taught children up to 7-years old and also trained teachers in their educational model. Their pupils were mostly the children of woman who were working at munition factories during WW1.

Image of the the students at the open-air nursery playing outside in the mud.

In 1917 the school was extended and renamed to the Rachel McMillan Nursery, following the death of Rachel just months before. The school was modelled after her designs. Led my Margaret McMillan, the new school had numerous shelters which could hold 35-50 children. Each open-air pavilion had running hot and cold water, tables, chairs and cupboards to store beds and blankets. After being dropped off by their mothers, children started their morning by washing and brushing their teeth. This was followed by breakfast and milk. Lessons started at 9am where they did handwork and played in the garden. At noontime, lunch was followed with a midday rest. Afternoons consisted of free play, music and games.


Doesn’t this sound adorable? We sure think it is! You can even watch some old footage. We totally recommend watching if you need a dose of cuteness in your day (and the narrator is priceless!)

Image of the Mcmillian sisters with their students at the open-air nursery.

The Rachel McMillan Nursey Nursery School is still open and encourages healthy development in children through active learning, exploration and play.

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