The Early Learning in Nature Project


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Documentation from a long term action research project from exploring the rich potential of the natural environment as a learning space for young children.

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The Early Learning in Nature Project

  1. 1. Early Learning in Nature A three year early childhood project in NE England. 2009 – 2012
  2. 2. Early Learning in Nature <ul><li>It provides children with limited access to the natural environment with sustained opportunities for engaging with nature </li></ul><ul><li>A specially equipped bus provides transport and a unique base from which to work, making ‘wild places’ viable environments for early years groups </li></ul><ul><li>An arts practitioner and educator/environmentalist team work in partnership with the children’s usual educators, accompanying the group ‘in the wild’ but also in the home base where learning can be built upon </li></ul><ul><li>Our pedagogy is based upon supporting children’s enquiries and all adults work collaboratively to see and respond to the fascinations which emerge in each ‘special place.’ </li></ul>
  3. 3. Objectives <ul><li>to give children sustained opportunities to engage with nature </li></ul><ul><li>to promote children’s entitlement to Outdoor Learning </li></ul><ul><li>to develop capacity and enthusiasm for outdoor education amongst early years educators. </li></ul><ul><li>to encourage children’s respect, understanding and stewardship of the natural world </li></ul><ul><li>to enable educators to further develop their reflective practice, working together in an “environment of enquiry” </li></ul><ul><li>to encourage parents to have an active role in their children’s learning </li></ul>
  4. 4. <ul><li>Our values and characteristics </li></ul><ul><li>Experiencing relationship with the natural world </li></ul><ul><li>Learning as dialogue and engagement – An environment of enquiry, not transmission </li></ul><ul><li>Sociable learning and learning groups </li></ul><ul><li>Theories, stories myths and fantasy </li></ul><ul><li>Developing expressive ‘languages’ </li></ul><ul><li>Documentation as a learning tool </li></ul><ul><li>Developing dialogue with families </li></ul><ul><li>(Also see ReFocus Values – Compasses and Tools In handout) </li></ul>
  5. 5. <ul><li>5 Projects running concurrently: </li></ul><ul><li>Darlington :2 </li></ul><ul><li>North Tyneside 2 </li></ul><ul><li>South Tyneside 1 </li></ul><ul><li>Each Early Years group visits the woods weekly during Spring and Summer terms with follow up session on alternate weeks in their home setting </li></ul>
  6. 6. <ul><li>Why outdoors? </li></ul><ul><li>Early learning is active, messy, boisterous and often physical. </li></ul><ul><li>Children learn through rich first hand experiences. </li></ul><ul><li>Children need opportunities to watch the natural world changing, to explore and solve problems. </li></ul><ul><li>Children need to play with what interests them, and to make choices. </li></ul><ul><li>Children need time to develop at their own pace. </li></ul><ul><li>Children need opportunities to dance, jump, spin and run. </li></ul><ul><li>Children need to be offered challenges through which to learn about risk-taking and keeping themselves safe. </li></ul><ul><li>Children need opportunities to make friends and develop relationships. </li></ul><ul><li>EYFS </li></ul>
  7. 7. &quot;Evidence shows around one in three parents will not allow children to play outside of their house or garden, and as many as one in four children, aged eight to 10, have never played outside without an adult. ’ Ed Balls, former Children’s Secretary Children today have far less freedom and autonomy than their parents and grandparents. They are less able to learn and manage risk in an-age appropriate way, and to develop natural resilience. There is a rise in childhood obesity and childhood asthma as children are less able to just ’play out.’ Meanwhile those working with children can become so anxious about managing risk that they lose confidence in their own good judgment. Educators increasingly preside over school grounds which are denuded of necessary challenge and risk. A generation of ‘Cotton Wool Kids’ are ill served by this approach to childhood.
  8. 8. Wild places are at a premium today, yet research demonstrates that close personal contact with the natural world lays the foundation for a caring approach to the planet. ‘ Children who have experienced everyday, real and direct experiences of living things are more likely to develop an attitude of guardianship to the natural world. If tomorrow’s caretakers of the earth are to love and understand the natural world, they need to explore it, enjoy it, and recognize our reliance upon it.’ Nature’s Playground 2001 Danks F and Schofield J Research by Chawla (1988) demonstrates that early engagement with the natural environment leads to the development of positive environmental values. The Northern region, with the largest percentage of the population (37.8%) living in the most deprived 20% of wards with indicese of multiple deprivation was identified as an area which could benefit from the ELiN aim of countering the impact of deprivation and limited access to nature.
  9. 9. The ELiN routine <ul><li>checking the site </li></ul><ul><li>arrival and gathering </li></ul><ul><li>time to be in the woods: </li></ul><ul><li>exploring, creating, climbing, collecting... </li></ul><ul><li>Reflection time, then back to school for lunch </li></ul>
  10. 11. Developing an environment of enquiry
  11. 12. Being in the natural world experiencing beauty
  12. 16. Elemental materials: wood, stone, water, earth, fire
  13. 17. The children consistently used the word ‘freedom’ in describing their feelings and perceptions of being in the natural environment. In what other circumstances do young children feel such a sense of freedom? This suggests a sense in which engaging in the natural environment enhanced the lives of the children involved.
  14. 18. Seaton Delaval Hall The boys’ painting The girls’ painting
  15. 19. Kai ‘Underground there’s moles, mice, rats and crabs. And a wood louse. The fox is sleeping underground.’ Dominic ‘There’s night animals. The fox is carrying the rabbit for his tea.’ Joe ‘There’s badgers.’ Kai ‘It’s pitch black underground There’s a metro and a speed train, and the miners underground. That’s in Chile. It says they’ll miss Christmas. If you made stairs down, they could get out. This is actually a axe to dig for the miners.’ Joe ‘They need a little lamp.’ Kai ’That’s the water from the roots.’
  16. 21. Dominic’ One of the miners got stuck. The builders are drilling down, and then they free them. X is where the gold is. They got a pick, it’s how they get the gold out when they dig rocks. There’s rubies, and red diamonds and treasure. That’s the hole, you put ladders, old ladders in, then they’re free. They had to hoy sandwiches down the hole, and a letter ’ Kai ‘The letter says ‘ We’re going to get you out.’ There’s a dead end. That is a doorway there, a sewer roof. There’s always crocodiles.’ Dominic ‘What if the builders put stairs in? There’s arches, and they crawl under. At Beamish, I saw a mine shaft like that.’
  17. 22. Katie ‘ This is the butterflies. I see butterflies on my garden wall all the time. They’re beautiful, and the bees are beautiful. They make honey. Butterflies collect things out the flowers’ Kai ‘The birds are playing Ring-a-Rosies.’ There’s ladybirds, frogs and fishes, slugs and snails, bats, spiders, lizards and bugs. And bluetit birds. Wood lice, centipedes and birds.’
  18. 23. The Witch Leonie ‘The Witch smells like frogs and smelly socks and snails. Witches have earrings and necklaces. They go to Morrisons and Asda. All the people run out. The Witch leaves her cat at home. She loves purple frogs, slugs and snails. In the Witch’s House there must be a trapdoor, and under the keys there’s a button to get in.’
  19. 24. Niamh ‘I went in the flower garden, I liked it best there, cos there’s loads of flowers and money there. The witch left the money for us. We went in the cellar, in the Witch’s house, it was not quite dark. We had discos. Sometimes we saw the broomstick. I found the Witch’ s nail.’
  20. 25. Princesses Caitlin ’Princesses are normally big. They have earrings and a pink dress and long hair. Sleeping Beauty gets married and finds Prince Charming.’ Caitlin’s Story ‘ There was a Princess called Caitlin Ann Amy Luke. She heard thunder, so she went in her house to keep dry. The thunder stopped and it was too dark so she went to sleep. The Prince comed and waked her up and kissed her. He was called Dominic. They got married, then Prince Dominic got a crown and said I name you Princess Annelise Luke. And they lived happily ever after.’
  21. 26. Caitlin’s Princess List: <ul><li>Diana </li></ul><ul><li>Sleeping Beauty </li></ul><ul><li>Annelise </li></ul><ul><li>Snow White </li></ul><ul><li>Belle </li></ul><ul><li>Cinderella </li></ul><ul><li>Erica </li></ul><ul><li>Gillian </li></ul>
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