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

Messy Maths – take learning outside on National Number Day

National Number Day

Next Friday is the NSPCC’s National Number Day. I hope this inspires you to join thousands of schools for a mega maths-inspired fundraising day and raise money for the NSPCC. Below are just a couple of examples of how to take maths outside!

Leaf Multiplication

Thank goodness for leaves! How would we learn our multiplication tables without them.

Leaf Multiplication

“Hmm.” I hear you say. “I managed just fine, thank you very much.”

Maybe so, but let’s face it. There’s a lot of rote learning to be done. We need to find different ways of helping children learn their tables and have fun whilst doing so.

The added bonus of using leaves is that you can appreciate the beauty of the structure and learn which one is which in the process.

3 leaves have 15 leaflets

It’s compound leaves that seem to work best. These are ones like a horse chestnut leaf. These have lovely “hand-shaped” leaves each with 5 leaflets. So 1 leaf has 5 leaflets, 2 leaves have 10 leaflets, 3 leaves have 15 leaflets, etc.

 

National Number Day

You often find the leaves of buttercups are arranged in trios.

If these leaves look a bit odd, it’s because I placed them face down to stop them blowing away! 4 x 3 (trios) = 12.

 

Ash leaves are more variable

 

Ash leaves are more variable. However I managed to acquire a nice collection of leaves with 9 leaflets. 3 x 9=27.

 

bracken fronds

 

For the very able mathematicians in your class, perhaps they would like to create multiplication sums for bracken fronds…

 

I think there’s lots of possibilities here. Can your class find compound leaves to represent all the multiplication tables from 2 to 10? Can they each create a sum, then have a competition to see who can solve all the sums the quickest? What challenges spring to your mind?

Stick Logic

One ongoing challenge for teachers is ensuring that children who finish earlier than others have something meaningful to move onto. There’s lots of possibilities outside and this stick activity is one such example. It can be completed in pairs or by children working alone. It helps if children know they can look at the work that others are doing.

The children need to find 9 sticks of about the same length. Conveniently I have a big stash of cut sticks.

Take 1: 5 triangles – not bad for starters!

Take 1: 5 triangles – not bad for starters!

If you do not have such luxury items, then challenge children to find or create 9 sticks of equal length. Twigs are fine too.

The challenge is pretty simple: how many triangles is it possible to make using 9 sticks? I have no idea, but the photos give you an indication of how I went about the task!

 

 

Take 3: 7 triangles – getting better

7 triangles – getting better

This logic activity can also be ongoing over several days. I like coming up with variations on a theme and asking children to do the same.

For example, what differences would we discover if:

 

 

  • We used 9 sticks of different lengths.
  • We used less than 9 sticks or more than 9 sticks – Is there a pattern to what we discover?
  • We chose a different shape to create, e.g. a square.

Take 6: I can count 18 triangles but I’m getting fuzzy eyes!

Take 6: I can count 18 triangles but I’m getting fuzzy eyes!

All-in-all it can be quite an absorbing task. I’m not sure this is the maximum number possible. If you better 18, I’d love to know how!

I hope this equips and inspires you to take maths outside on National Number Day!

By Juliet Robertson

Get real, get messy, get maths, get outside!

Come and spend a wonderful day in the woods, with Juliet Robertson, the author of the multi-award winning book, ‘Messy Maths‘. Together you will explore the five “R’s” of Messy Maths:

  • Rights – every child is mathematical and has the right to have learn about and explore maths.
  • Routines – embedding key maths concepts into your daily routines.
  • Resources – open-ended, low cost materials which can be used in lots of different ways with different ages and abilities of children.
  • Responsibilities of the adults – how to follow children’s lead and articulate the learning which happens through a play-based approach. It also includes ways of involving families in developing a child’s love of maths.
  • Re-imagining your outdoor space – developing maths-rich provision in any outdoor space be this a concrete jungle, woodland paradise or something else.

This content is based upon the book, Messy Maths: A Playful and Outdoor Approach for the Early Years. It is particularly suitable for those who work with children aged 3-6 yrs old. It takes a sensible approach that provides lots of practical ways to ensure your maths provision is engaging and interesting outside and meets the needs of the children with whom you work.

This all takes place within the context of sustainability using the environment, natural materials and what is around us in any outdoor space.

Date: 21st May 2020.
Lead Facilitator: Juliet Robertson
Location:
 Mill Woods, near Laughton, East Sussex, BN8 6BP
Cost: £120. If you are attending the Literacy Day also, the fee is £220 for the two days.*
Time: 09.00 – 15.30
Booking: Please book online here.
More information: Please see our website.
*Juliet is also running a Literacy Day on 22nd May – ‘Lighting the Literacy Fire’. Please see the website for details. If you would like to book both courses with Juliet, the fee is reduced to £220 for both courses.

About Juliet

Juliet is one of Scotland’s leading education consultants who specialises in outdoor learning and play. She works at a national level delivering training, giving keynote speeches, leading and supporting innovative outdoor projects and writing content for websites, documents and case studies.   She is passionate about enabling schools, play organisations and early years settings to provide quality outdoor learning and play opportunities for children and young people. Read more here.


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.
Email: info@circleofliferediscovery.com
Tel: 01273 814226

Outdoor Learning – A Case Study by Juliet Robertson

Outdoor Learning at St Geradine Primary School

One year ago Juliet Robertson spent two mornings working with a small group of teachers at St Geradine’s Primary School in Lossiemouth. The Depute Head, Fiona Stevenson, who was leading the outdoor learning improvements, wrote the report below, with one of the class teachers, Laura McGurke, for their local authority newsletter.
How do you develop a Whole School Approach to Outdoor Learning?
St Geradine School in Lossiemouth was delighted to receive £3000 from the Innovation Fund to support their work in developing outdoor learning.
Their aims were:
  1. To develop outdoor learning within and across their school in order that it is embedded within the curriculum and sustainable for the future, with a view to being able to share/roll out developments to other interested primary schools.
  2. To provide learners with a wide range of fun, meaningful and challenging experiences:
  • Pupils will have opportunities for challenge and enjoyment through outdoor learning experiences.
  • Pupils’ learning and development will be supported and enhanced through meaningful play opportunities.
  • Pupils will develop their skills (e.g. problem solving, team working etc.) and personal attributes (e.g. resilience).
A working group comprising one of their DHTs, P2 teacher and P6/7 teacher consulted with Juliet Robertson from Creative STAR Learning to plan and lead the development.
Through a series of staff meetings they achieved their aims by:
Creating outdoor learning folders:
  • These included risk benefit assessments personalised for Lossiemouth and their school grounds, helpful guides on planning trips to the forest, beach and quarry, ideas for activities in Numeracy, Literacy and Inter-disciplinary Learning (IDL), the Countryside Code, the Highway Code and local maps.
  • Ordering resources to support the stewardship roles, literacy and numeracy.
  • Creating class backpacks with essential equipment for off-site visits in the local area.
  • Beginning to plan for developing the school grounds to enhance learning experiences.
  • Staff involvement in a series of twilight sessions looking at the local area and the opportunities within it for outdoor learning, learning experiences in numeracy and literacy and how to use the beach as a learning context.
The impact on learners:
  1. Improved health & wellbeing (fitness, fresh air, emotional & mental health etc.)
  • Children state they feel better working outside as there is more space available and lots of fresh air.
  • P7 parents have commented on the increase of outdoor play at home as a result of ‘Wolf Brother’ sessions outdoors.
  • Nursery parents strongly believe our outdoor provision is very good.
  • Classes walk from the school to the forest, quarry and beach areas.
Quotes from learners:
  • ‘I enjoy outdoors because it’s very peaceful’ Claudia P7 Pupil
  • ‘It’s a way to encourage children to spend more time outdoors which is extremely enjoyable.’ P7 pupil
  • ‘I enjoy outdoor learning because of the outdoor atmosphere, especially when it’s slightly breezy and the birds are tweeting. It all feels very peaceful and relaxing.’ Aimee P7
  • ‘I like the coolness and I also like the hotness and I like the games we play.’ Lewis P2
  • ‘I think I learn more when I’m outside.’ Evie P2
  • ‘I like running outside because it’s good for my bones.’ Ava P2
  • ‘It was cold. We run outside to keep warm.’ Niall Nursery
 
  1. Connections being made in their learning from curricular areas to the real world and within real contexts; seeing the relevance of their learning; making sense of their learning; interdisciplinary learning experiences.
  • All classes had planned outdoor sessions for the next term. P1 are used the local community and school grounds to support literacy and maths (line and shape, information handling, shape, measurement and number in context). They gathered information to write reports and identified landmarks within Lossiemouth; P2 visited the forest weekly to support all areas of the curriculum; P2-3 classes have used learning walks around Lossiemouth within an IDL on ‘Footprints from the past’; P4-5 classes used the school grounds to support literacy and numeracy and have visited the beach to work on science and poetry writing; P5-7 are using ‘Wolf Brother’ novel as a stimulus to work outside using the forest, quarry and school grounds.
  • SFL staff are using the outdoors to support work in literacy and numeracy.
  • Nursery classes are outdoors every day for focussed and free play.
  • All classes have undertaken a stewardship role with their classes which should promote feeling of responsibility for our school grounds for all e.g. litter, birds, wildlife, willow, garden, composting.
Quotes from learners:
  • ‘I enjoy all of outdoor learning because I enjoy going outside and going to the woods and quarry’ Olivia P7
  • ‘I enjoy outdoor learning because you can engage with nature.’ Mollie P7
  • ‘We planted golden flowers. We sprinkled the seeds in the soil.’ Grace Nursery
  • ‘I put the soil on the seeds. I watered them with water and a watering can. We were raking to put the air in.’ Archie Nursery
  1. Opportunities for creative and critical thinking, challenge and enquiry
  • P2 used small world toys and a fairy tree stimulus to create stories in the local woods.
  • P5-7 used natural dyes to create artwork.
  • Learners at all stages using natural materials to create artwork and to support literacy and numeracy.
  • Learners frequently talking and reflecting about their learning outside.
Quotes from learners:
  • My favourite part of outdoor learning was doing the arty stuff.’ Sally P7
  • I enjoy doing all the different jobs because some are hard.’ Georgina P7
  • I like outdoor learning because we get to hear sounds.’ Aaliyah P2
  • I was putting sticks in a pile. I was pretending it was a fire.’ Aiden Nursery
  • I collected shells and wood and ice and pine cones and old leaves off trees. We sorted it all out into piles.’ Aiden Nursery
  1. Stimulating and varied learning experiences, a different learning environment, more relaxed learning environment
  • Use of school grounds, beaches, forest and quarry.
  • Homework tasks which are outdoor based have been more successfully completed by more learners.
  • Parents are aware and are enthusiastic about the increased variety of experiences outdoors.
  • Learners are more openly talking about these experiences with their families.
Quotes from learners:
  • ‘I really enjoy outdoor learning because it gives me a chance to learn about nature.’ Claire P7
  • ‘I like working outside because it’s easier to learn and I like the activities we do.’ Bella P7
  • ‘I liked how you can learn things and do them at home.’ Bethan P7
  • ‘I really enjoy outdoor learning because I like going out to different places and to see different things’ Fern P7
  • ‘I enjoy doing maths outside.’ Oliver P2
  1. Opportunities for personal achievement
  1. Motivation through experiential learning
  • Staff have reported learners being more engaged and enthused with learning outdoors.
  • Parents have reported increased use of outdoors at home.
  1. Opportunities for risk benefit management; decision making skills.
  • Learners are actively involved in considering possible risks when working outdoors.
  • All classes have established rules and responsibilities and are developing confidence in their routines.
Impact on staff:
  • Every class within the school has engaged with outdoor learning and staff now feel more confident and equipped to take their classes outdoors.
  • Staff have embraced the challenge of working outdoors and are creating challenging and enjoyable experiences for our pupils.
  • Staff feel supported with the Risk Benefit Assessments, class backpacks and bank of resources and have enjoyed reading Dirty Teaching.
  • The teachers who have been leading the development have enjoyed the opportunity to develop something they have a keen interest in and are delighted with the clear impact it has had on staff and learners. They now have a better understanding of the process of development work and how to integrate outdoor learning into all curricular areas.
Developments for the future:
  • To further embed the use of the outdoors in their practice.
  • To continue to develop routines for going outside so that learners are more confident and independent.
  • Develop the school grounds in partnership with the school and local community.
  • Continue to build on the award schemes they have begun.
  • Continue to build a bank of resources and accommodation for these.
Outdoor Learning with Juliet Robertson
If this guest blog post gives you a flavour of what can be kick started with a little support from Juliet, please come along to the Circle of Life Rediscovery CPD on 18th May:
Dirty Teaching – Developing a Whole School Approach to Learning Outdoors. Click here to find out more and book your place!
In this practical course, we look at realistic ways of embedding outdoor practice into the life and ethos of your school.
Circle of Life Rediscovery

Circle of Life Rediscovery is a not for profit CIC company in East Sussex. They provide outdoor learning and nature based experiences including bespoke Camps for schools, Forest School sessions, Enrichment Days plus Forest School Training Level 3 and CPD’s for adults as well as funded programmes. Find out more here.

Outdoor Learning with Juliet Robertson
“I believe strongly in the capacity of schools and teachers to develop their own outdoor practice. I save time re-inventing the wheel or getting stuck on irrelevant matters – keeping the focus on the learning experiences and outcomes for children. I also bring a wealth of knowledge and experience which can help staff think more strategically about embedding outdoor learning into the life of the school.”
Juliet Robertson, Creative STAR Learning. Find out more here.

Why Teach Literacy Outside?

Here are ten reasons to get outside and teach literacy!

By Juliet Robertson, Creative STAR Learning.

Come and find out more about Outdoor Literacy on 23rd February!

Recently I was asked to think about why I teach literacy outside. Whilst there is a lot of focus on early years and literacy, the value of reading, writing, talking and listening outside for children and young people of all ages is significant.

Here’s 10 off-the-cuff reasons I said…

1. It makes the learning and teaching of spelling and grammar fun, relevant and interesting.

2. Children enjoy making miniature worlds which then become the scene for a story. They can sculpt and shape their imaginative thoughts. This helps them understand about creating a setting with words.

3. The world around us provides inspiration for writing poems. The results are consistently of a better quality than poetry written in the classroom.

4. As we move from place to place, our thoughts, feelings and actions change. This helps us understand that this happens to characters in a story too. We can make our character descriptions more authentic.

5. There is nothing like reading a ghost book or horror story in a creepy place. Or making up your own. The setting doubles the atmosphere created.

6. When we play games we can write down instructions about how to play them. Our knowledge of being outside can be used to write advice to others about how to avoid being stung by a wasp or what to do if a nettle stings you. Functional writing has additional purpose and relevance.

7. Real life experiences help us develop our vocabulary and comprehension. For example, some children find vocabulary introduced in a book confusing. He or she may not necessarily understand that a river, lake, stream and pond are all bodies of water. Sometimes concepts that are read about in a book do not make sense until they are seen, felt or experienced for real.

8. We’re not reading at our desks. Hardly anyone reads at a desk unless they are at school or in an office. Reading for pleasure should be at leisure.

9. The art of naming, describing and knowing about the world around us matters. You can learn the umpteen descriptions to describe the stem of a plant. But without observing these, it is much harder to memorise or to truly know and understand.

10. Children engage with their learning outside and this has a knock-on effect back in the classroom too, according to a recent study.

Outdoor Literacy CPD, East Sussex – 23rd February

Join our Outdoor Literacy CPD on 23rd February, East Sussex
On Friday 23rd February Juliet will be in East Sussex offering an outdoor literacy training session. We’ll be exploring how to make literacy simple, doable and enjoyable, outside – whatever your environment, be this a concrete or natural jungle. For details please see the Circle of Life Rediscovery website or you can book your place here.

 

 

About Juliet Robertson

Juliet Robertson
Juliet Robertson is a former head teacher of three schools ranging in size from 6 to 277 pupils. In 2007 she established Creative STAR Learning to provide Support, Training, Advice and Resources for outdoor learning and play.

Juliet has worked behind the scenes at a national level in Scotland as a consultant, ghost-writer and adviser to many organisations including Education Scotland, Inspiring Scotland and the Forestry Commission Scotland (FCS). Find out more.

 

About Circle of Life Rediscovery

Circle of Life RediscoveryCircle of Life Rediscovery is a Community Interest Company and has been working since 2004 to reconnect people from all backgrounds and ages to the natural world.

We provide nature based programmes that are educational, fun and often life-changing!

These include Forest School Sessions, Woodland Days, School Visits, Camps for Schools as well as Forest School Training, CPD’s and Family Days.