Nature Play and the Early Years

Nature Play is essential for all our learning and development. In the early years of our lives we explore and experiment. What makes the human species so special? It has to do with all the care and time we are given by the adults around us as well as the variability in our experiences and the places we inhabit.

Nature Play in the Early Years


Growing up for children takes a long time in the human species. Our brains prune as we grow older, leaving in place well-trodden neural pathways.

These provide us with the ability to create, think outside the box, transfer knowledge and learning, socialise, regulate our feelings and grow internal self-worth and autonomy.

Nature is the best way to play and learn in the early years. A diverse environment, full of sensory experiences with space and time is ideal for early year’s development. Apart from how trees and green spaces reduce cortisol, our stress hormones, we grow an ecological identity, a long-lasting kinship with the wider non-human world that remains loyal and provides a key refuge for years ahead.

Nature Play in the Early Years


Applying a child/person-centred, play-based approach in nature – we embody abstract concepts and apply knowledge and understanding that comes from direct experience.

What’s exciting is that our education system is beginning to value this approach to learning.



We are beginning to see that there is a direct link between childhood play and discovery and arriving at adulthood able to take appropriate risks, adapt to new environments and provide solutions to new problems.

Juliet Robertson from Creative Star Learning


Juliet Robertson, based in Scotland is one of the leading experts in play and learning in the outdoors. She has helped to support many organisations, government and charitable agencies, schools and nurseries to bring nature play and education into mainstream learning.




Local authorities in Scotland are exploring how using outdoor space could optimise physical distancing. Read the recent Guardian article here.

Circle of Life Rediscovery aims to transform education and health through nature and we are delighted to be working with Juliet (and other people and partners) to realise this vision. Change is needed from the top-down and bottom-up.

Here today we are offering a number of downloadable materials from Scotland that clearly provide the thinking and framework demonstrating the benefits and approach for broadly defined ‘ outdoor learning’.

Common Ground Interview with Juliet Robertson

Please see below for our recent Common Ground interview with Marina Robb and Juliet Robertson, they discuss:

  • What common values underpin our practice with children?
  • What is the role of nature in ‘good’ education?
  • What policies and ideas are working in Scotland and how can we learn from this?

Juliet is offering a number of webinars to show how teaching in nature through play, can be seen through a mathematical or English lens. The webinars explores a diversity of ways of embedding literacy and maths in an outdoor space.

Messy Maths & Outdoor Literacy in the Early Years – Webinar

Messy Maths: Join Juliet via Zoom on 21st May, 3pm – 4.30pm. Please click here to register for the Zoom webinar. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar. Visit our website for full details.

Outdoor Literacy: Join Juliet via Zoom on 25th June, 3pm – 4.30pm. Please click here to register for the Zoom webinar. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar. Visit our website for full details.

Messy Maths & Outdoor Literacy CPD’s

A Nature Mandala

If you are local, you may be able to join Juliet and the Circle of Life Rediscovery team in person in the Autumn – Covid permitting! Juliet will be running 2 CPD events – Messy Maths and Outdoor Literacy.

Free Resources to download!

Please sign up to our newsletter to receive 2 free documents:

  1. Outdoor Learning – Practical guidance, ideas and support for teachers and practitioners.
  2. Taking Learning Outdoors.

All the while, we remain a voice for learning and developing in nature and cultivating and deep appreciation for this land beneath our feet.


Transforming education, health and family through nature.

Circle of Life Rediscovery provides exciting and highly beneficial nature-centred learning and therapeutic experiences for young people, adults, and families in Sussex woodlands, along with innovative continuing professional development for the health, well being and teaching professionals who are supporting them.

Circle of Life Rediscovery

www.circleofliferediscovery.com

info@circleofliferediscovery.com

01273 814226

Forest Kindergarten Training

‘Opening up the Outdoors’

Forest Kindergarten is modelled on a Forest School approach


Forest Kindergarten is modelled on a Forest School approach and is based around child-centred learning through play in the Early Years. Forest Kindergartens offer young children frequent visits and regular play opportunities in a local, natural setting all year round – this could be a woodland, park or even a beach!

What are the benefits of Forest Kindergarten approach?

10 Benefits of a Forest Kindergarten approach

  1. Enjoyment – Children who regularly learn, play and enjoy the outdoors environment are observed to feel happier and more relaxed. They can learn at their own pace, follow an interest, enjoy the fresh air, get mucky without worry – what could be better?
  2. Play – the Forest Kindergarten approach supports child-centred learning through play in a real world context. It provides young children with freedom to explore and use multiple senses.
  3. Nature immersion, discovery and exploration – Children have the time and space to become the ‘directors’ of their own learning. Staff take on an observation and supporting role and this empowers children to become managers of their own learning process.
  4. Creates interactions – with people and places where they play in their local area. As a result of these positive interactions, children learn to care for nature. Children develop a connection with the natural world which can lead to long term environmental awareness, understanding and positive action.
  5. Well-being – promotes movement, health and well being, physical and emotional resilience, promotes ‘in the moment’ experiences and develops confidence.
  6. Awareness – supports the acquisition of knowledge, skills and care for the natural world.
  7. Motivation and concentration – spending time in the outdoor environment is exciting for a child. The outdoors and its constant changing state fascinates children and therefore leads to high levels of attention. Many practitioners who regularly take children to visit local spaces have noted that children are able to participate and concentrate for longer periods of time.
  8. Risk benefit – regular visits with time and space, supportive adults and plenty of child led play helps to develop children’s awareness of risk as well as their confidence in managing risk. Children develop their confidence with taking risk over time and consider as a direct experience before deciding what action to take.
  9. Teamwork / co-operation – children when playing and exploring outdoors can demonstrate a less competitive nature. They use the natural world in a completely different way, often becoming more imaginative with their play, developing a different rhythm and working together for a shared purpose. There is less academic pressure, less formal structure which children (and adults) really respond to.
  10. The ripple effect – When children have positive experiences outdoors they will take their experiences home to share with friends and family. This will often encourage families to visit their local woodlands more frequently.

“At the end of the day, your feet should be dirty, your hair messy and your eyes sparkling” – Shanti

Equip your staff to take children out of door as part of their everyday education!

At Circle of Life Rediscovery we are running a two-day Forest Kindergarten Training in May, East Sussex.

Forest Kindergarten Training in East Sussex


The aim of this two-day training is to develop Early Years practitioners’ skills to enable and empower them to make regular visits to a local green-space or woodland.

What themes underpin this training?

  • Based upon three themes- people, place and pedagogy (activities).
  • The importance of sustained, free play for children’s development and engagement.
  • The value of nature for well-being – both for child and practitioner.
  • Making a connection with the natural world leading to long term environmental awareness and care for our world.
  • Importance of reflective practice.

Key Content:

  • How to prepare both yourselves as practitioners and your young children to go to a green-space.
  • Setting up a suitable site and setting boundaries with children.
  • Preparing for risks (risk benefit model).
  • Research on the benefits of playing and learning outdoors.
  • Games and songs to support children with the routines of regular visits to a green-space.

Course details:

Date: 7th & 14th May 2020.
Location: Mill Woods, near Laughton, East Sussex.
Time: 09.00 – 16.30.
Cost: £175.
Booking: Please book online here. See our website for full course details. Please note:  If this event needs to be postponed due to the Covid-19 virus, we will reschedule and provide an option to return payment.

Forest Kindergarten Training - Learn how to open up the outdoors!

“I enjoyed this training so much! Having already been doing Forest School with the older children I was struggling to do fun and exciting things with the early years- you have bought back my confidence and given me lots of ideas and ways to improve my practice.”
2020 Participant


Nature hour

Take your kids outside for nature hour!

A ‘nature hour’ should be part of the school curriculum every day, say The Wildlife Trusts. They are calling for every child in the UK to spend one hour outside in nature, every day, as part of the school curriculum. Please read the article here.



Forest School Shelters

At Circle of Life Rediscovery we can design and build bespoke forest school shelters for your school or organisation.

Forest School Shelters


We will visit your site to discuss your needs and requirements, to offer advice and give suggestions. Visit the website to learn more.






Transforming education, health and family through nature.

Circle of Life Rediscovery

We provide exciting and highly beneficial nature-centred learning and therapeutic experiences for young people, adults, and families in Sussex woodlands, along with innovative continuing professional development for the health, well being and teaching professionals who are supporting them.

Outdoor Classroom Day 2019

Happy Outdoor Classroom Day 2019!

young people thrive through learning and engaging outside the classroomOn Outdoor Classroom Day we bring you ideas of how to get children outdoors in line with the new Ofsted Education Inspection Framework guidelines.

Below are extracts from Reports, Papers and the Education Inspection Framework.

In 2014 the growing weight of evidence was finally recognised by Nicky Morgan, the Secretary of State for Education at the time, who stated that England was to become a “global leader” in teaching character, resilience and grit to pupils.

‘There is growing evidence that children’s social and emotional skills – their ability to respond to setbacks, work well with others, build relationships, manage emotions and cope with difficult situations – are associated with success at school, as well as positive outcomes in adulthood.’ (Education Endowment Foundation 2017 Report).

There are many different definitions however, probably one of the most compact and accessible definition of the terms ‘resilience’ and ‘character’ has been developed by ADEPIS (ADEPIS Report (March 2015) ‘Building Resilience and Character in young people’ as outlined below:

‘Resilience is the capacity of an individual to ‘bounce back’ from adverse experiences, and to manage positive resources and skills, such as ‘character’ and ‘grit’, that can allow minimising negative outcomes of adverse circumstances.’

‘Character is a set of capabilities (including application, self-direction, self -regulation, and empathy) and soft skills that allow people to achieve their potential.’

The ability to manage setbacks and build on them, seeing them in a positive light that young people can learn from is essential. As Einstein noted ‘Failure doesn’t mean you are a failure, it just means you have not succeeded yet’.

Get outside on outdoor classroom dayThere is compelling evidence built up over many years that children and young people thrive through learning and engaging outside the classroom.

In September 2019 OFSTED introduced the Education Inspection Framework (EIF) which is built around the ‘connectedness’ of the curriculum. Assessors will focus on quality of education with the curriculum extending beyond the academic to include broader development such as: personal development, behaviour and attitudes, character and cultural capital. This presents an opportunity to extend into the outdoors!

Below are some key notes taken directly from the OFSTED EIF:

Q: How can development of character/personal development be supported in schools?

Personal development:
28. Inspectors will make a judgement on the personal development of learners by evaluating the extent to which:

  • The curriculum extends beyond the academic, technical or vocational. It provides for learners’ broader development, enabling them to develop and discover their interests and talents.
  • The curriculum and the provider’s wider work support learners to develop their character – including their resilience, confidence and independence – and help them know how to keep physically and mentally healthy.

Everything we do is based in nature

Children can be supported in building resilience, confidence, independence and in knowing how to keep physically and mentally healthy.

The foundation of our work here at Circle of Life Rediscovery is built on the above qualities. Everything we do is based in nature.

Inspectors will make a judgement on behaviour and attitudes, including the extent to which:



‘Learners’ attitudes to their education or training are positive. They are committed to their learning, know how to study effectively and do so, are resilient to setbacks and take pride in their achievements’.

Q: What is Cultural Capital?
Early Years Inspection handbook p16:

Cultural capital
140. Inspectors will evaluate how well leaders ensure that the curriculum they use or create enhances the experiences and opportunities available to children, particularly the most disadvantaged. Some children arrive at an early years settings with poorer experiences than others, in their learning and play. What a setting does, through its curriculum and interactions with practitioners, potentially makes all the difference for children. It is the role of the setting to ensure that children experience the awe and wonder of the world in which they live, through the seven areas of learning.

We know that outdoor learning experiences can improve a young person’s feeling of well-being. A meta-analysis of 96 studies (see Report) shows that there are significant improvements in independence, confidence, self-efficacy, self-understanding, assertiveness, internal focus of control and decision making as a result of outdoor adventure programmes.

Outdoor Classroom Day 2019

 

What we see every day: Learning in a natural environment has a high positive impact on a child’s behaviour. This is linked to the quality of facilitation.

Key approaches in the outdoors enable:

  • Child led learning – allows children to discover interests in their own time and at their own pace. Intrinsic motivation and sense of agency is also developed.
  • Learning in nature – hands on learning with a range of natural materials to encompass all learning types including kinaesthetic learners, e.g. clay, sticks, stones. Nature as metaphor and deep investigation.
  • Physical health – wider range of movement in the outdoors such as, climbing, running, crawling, jumping and proprioception. Woodlands naturally provide logs, trees, hills, ditches, stumps which promote movement.
  • Mental health – research has shown being in the outdoors reduces stress. The community of learners provides a safe, emotionally literate, welcoming atmosphere.
  • Building resilience, confidence and independence – regular experiences in the outdoors provide opportunities for children to take supported risks at their own pace and to build on their abilities thus increasing confidence and self esteem.

Download the full document here: ‘Character and Resilience and the Outdoors

Forest School Shelters

 

Would you like us to build you an outdoor classroom? Visit our website for details!

 

 

Enjoy your Outdoor Classroom Day – we hope you manage to get outside today!


Transforming education, health and family through nature.

Circle of Life RediscoveryWe provide exciting and highly beneficial nature-centred learning and therapeutic experiences for young people, adults, and families in Sussex woodlands, along with innovative continuing professional development for the health, well being and teaching professionals who are supporting them.

Follow us to stay in touch and find out about our events, training, CPD’s and family days:

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Forest Kindergarten

Breathing Life into Literacy

By Louise Hack

Education and lives have changed hugely over the last 50 years. We now live in a fast world- fast food, fast internet access, firing off a quick email to numerous people and flicking between many screens. Our brains have developed into high speed trains which somehow are able to cope with constant quick episodes of conversation, information and interactions without moving from the comfort of our seats.

Education seems to mirror this more and more and there is an ever- increasing rush to put pen to paper, be still, write at length, test and assess with less and less time to connect, explore and wonder. However, when you strip it right back learning is a process and a messy one at that! We need to consider the core elements of learning and surely the rights of the child and we need to put them at the heart of our teaching.

They must therefore include the following:

  • Making connections (people, nature)
  • Active play and learning (time, space, following own interests and fascinations)
  • Exploration
  • Developing self-emotions, confidence, resilience, problem solving and independence

And what better place to enhance and develop these areas? Yes you’ve got it – the
outdoors!

I believe that moving literacy into the outdoor environment inspires children,
stimulates their imagination, makes sense of the world around them that they will
ultimately be reading and writing about. In this article, we are going to explore how to integrate literacy into nature by using the big outdoor classroom.

So…. get ready, lift yourselves up from your desks, pull on your waterproofs and be
prepared to get your hands dirty as you open the doors to literacy learning beyond
the classroom walls. Go forth… explore, discover and wonder and I guarantee you
will notice significant changes with engagement, energy, ownership and emotional
involvement- both yours and the children you teach..

Rituals and personal stories – on a recent Forest Kindergarten training event with
Juliet Robertson we discussed the importance of rituals in play and behaviour.
Rituals can create order and help us to create sense to our world. All animals seek
rituals and even my gorgeous but slightly anxious Ozzy dog seeks familiar and
ordered events on his walks and wanderings. I have learnt to follow his lead – who
am I to try and avoid one of the sniffed but much loved bunny holes!

As a child rituals were an important part of my world and I still remember them fondly from the chants we used to say as we crossed bridges to school to the gentle shake of a low lying branch to wish the old tree a good day. Rituals are repetitive, help children to feel secure, tune them into their environment and aid transitions. Rituals help to form personal histories and stories which in turn aids storytelling. So when out and about with little ones – look around you and consider how you can create stories with the places you visit regularly. Tune in with your world – really look and explore. Children will never forget all the little things.

Forest Kindergarten - creating charactersCreating characters – creating characters or woodland creatures is a lovely activity for young children to do quite early on using the natural materials that they find.

It can help them to feel safe to have a little creature that lives in the woods who they come to find each week and someone that they can have adventures with. It can also help to develop empathy, friendship and relationships.

 

By creating a character hands on, they can start to develop the descriptive language whilst in the moment of making for example “it has a bumpy, pointy head and soft, smooth skin.” It is much easier to describe when you are creating something hands on rather than looking at a 2D picture of a character from a book. In addition to this you can now create the characters story.

Storytelling – Storytelling connects. It connects us to our past, to each other, our families and our world. Here are two examples of ways to unravel stories with young children:

Story Worlds - Forest KindergartenStory small worlds – try creating a natural story world

*You could create a place for your creature to live in. Does it live in a dark cave? Does it like to live up high or underground? Is your character shy or does it like to have lots of people to live nearby?

 

*Or retell a story using a story map that you have made- track a story adventure by creating the journey from start to finish.

Story sticks – This is a great activity and one of my favourites for creating a story journey.  When out for a long walk, collect a stick about the length of your lower arm and take some elastic bands or string with you.   Wrap the elastic bands/ string around the stick and as you enjoy your walk, your children can collect treasures and attach them with the elastic bands.  This is a great activity for encouraging children to become inquisitive about the world around them, it helps them to tune in and explore and REALLY look at what’s beneath their feet.  At the end they could make up a story using their collected treasures to remember the steps they have taken on their journey. Alternatively, this stick can become… hmmm… a chance to inspire their imagination!

Describing our world – we can have high expectations that all children will be able
to describe the world around them. But how can anyone truly describe a scene
unless they have experienced it first hand? Multi-sensory experiences aid the brain
to connect and engage which as a result associates a meaning and an emotional
connection. Therefore, if you want someone to use descriptive language in a story,
poem or passage to describe, for example, the thundering rain or windy weather,
then they need to experience it first-hand not just through a picture. They need to
feel the wind on their skin, feel a sense of cold, have their hair whip around their
face, feel the air almost knocked out of them and even struggle to walk into the wind.

Learning by doing is exciting, it allows us to create meaning. When you next have a
snowy or windy day then yes, by all means think about safety but also open your
eyes to the fact that this may be a child’s first experience of such an event. A year or so ago when we had our last ‘big’ snow shower, I took a class of Reception aged
children outside to experience snow. They had never experienced this other than
through watching TV, Frozen the movie in reality. After a little while of exploring, they were telling me how cold they were, how the snow had turned hard and that it wasn’t soft anymore. Children need to discover, see things change before their eyes to encourage vocabulary and the depth to write about subjects in the future.

Tuning in and listening – early phonics

Tuning in and listening – early phonicsIn a previous job role as a consultant, I worked in a variety of different Early Years settings focusing on the very early years of literacy. One of the most significant outcomes of some research that I was involved in, was around the decline of ability to filter sounds due to increased environmental noise e.g. babies finding it hard to tune into their mothers voice or a toddler hearing a set of keys fall to the floor.

 

 

It is hugely important that we build in time to ‘really’ listen to what sounds are around us. Noise is a part of our lives and so much so that during a recent remote holiday to Devon it almost hurt my ears when there was a lack of sound!

International Literacy Day 2019In the outdoors there is a cacophony of different sounds – some natural and some man made. The difference to tuning into them outdoors rather than indoors is that the sounds are not so strong and overpowering because there is more open space for sound to travel around. Nature has a rich orchestra and is a great way of allowing children the time to sit quietly and record either by pictures or marks on a page the different natural sounds/ conversations they hear. You will be surprised that when you really ‘tune in’ how many different sounds you can hear.

 

In addition to this, allowing children to have the time to understand that everything can make a different sound – one stone dropping into a cool pool will not sound the same as another. Everything is different and unique – so catch your breath and relish this time.

Books to support literacy learning outdoors (some of my favourites):

Stanley’s Stick – Neal Layton
The listening walk – Paul Showers
Leaf Man –
We’re going on a leaf hunt – Steve Metzger
Mud – Mary Lyn Ray
Snail Trail – Ruth Brown
Yucky Worms – Vivian French
Wild – Emily Hughes
Bog Baby – Jennie Willis
Into the Forest – Anthony Browne
Tree: seasons come and seasons go – Patricia Hegarty (Bee and Moon books also
by the same author)
Leaf – Sandra Dieckmann

So finally…

Breathe the outdoors into our literacy learning!Outdoor experiences allow us to breathe… the pace slows and we start to respond to the natural rhythms around us. The outdoors allows us to connect and deepen our sensory experiences which help to make meaning to the world in which we live. We develop our talk, negotiation/ problem solving skills and tune into the natural environment.

We can develop an abundance of language and we can also develop our personal histories/ stories in a playful way. The outdoors allows us to develop the link and connection between ourselves, our adventures and stories.

So lets breathe the outdoors into our literacy learning and inspire and engage our children with many different skills whilst they play and explore.

Louise Hack, Whoosh Learning Director, Educational Consultant & Circle of Life Rediscovery Trainer.

Find out more about our upcoming Forest Kindergarten Training:

FOREST KINDERGARTEN ‘OPENING UP THE OUTDOORS’ TRAINING

A two day introductory course based on the Scottish Forest Kindergarten Model.

Key Overview:
Forest Kindergarten TrainingForest Kindergarten is modelled on a Forest School approach and is based around child-centred learning through play in the Early Years. Forest Kindergartens offer young children frequent visits and regular play opportunities in a local, natural setting all year round – this could be a woodland, park or even a beach!

The aim of this two-day training is to develop Early Years practitioners’ skills to enable and empower them to make regular visits to a local green space/woodland.

Date: 6th & 13th February 2020 OR 7th & 14th May 2020.
Facilitators: Marina Robb & Louise Hack
Location: Mill Woods, near Laughton, East Sussex.
Time: 09.00 – 16.30.
Cost: £175 for the two days.
Booking: Please book online.

Key Content:

  • How to prepare both yourselves as practitioners and your young children to go to a green space.
  • Setting up a suitable site and setting boundaries with children.
  • Preparing for risks (risk benefit model).
  • Research on the benefits of playing and learning outdoors.
  • Games and songs to support children with the routines of regular visits to a green space.

Please visit the website for full details.


Transforming education, health and family through nature.

Circle of Life RediscoveryCircle of Life Rediscovery provides exciting and highly beneficial nature-centred learning and therapeutic experiences for young people, adults, and families in Sussex woodlands, along with innovative continuing professional development for the health, well being and teaching professionals who are supporting them.