NAME OF SETTING: The Pilgrim School: Early Years Foundation Unit
The Pilgrim School is a recently built school in the village of Borstal, Medway with an Early Years Foundation Unit. Both Nursery and Reception children have a weekly session of ‘natural play’ outdoors in addition to their daily opportunities in the large outdoor space attached to the Foundation Stage Unit.
EFFECTIVE OUTDOOR PRACTICE:
The staff are making very imaginative use of a space that at first glance might be deemed unsuitable for children under five years old. The space has steep inclines and is in a corner of the school site that backs directly onto land bordering the motorway. Originally used as a place to dump rubble during the construction of the school it has since been transformed by staff and children into a vibrant and child friendly space. The imaginative development of the space has taken account of levels and slopes and incorporated these features into the design to maximise the challenges and experiences for children. For example, a large shelter has been constructed on a higher level and is supported by stilts arising out of the ground at a lower level. This design solution maximises the space available to children on the higher ground and provides a place for them to swing on ropes on the lower level. Children and staff move between the two levels using a set of wooden steps embedded into the slope -or on their bottoms! Existing trees and shrubs are incorporated into children’s play and explorations. Stones, twigs, logs, tools and ropes also add rich opportunities for imaginative play and staff provide enthusiastic support to children’s play ideas, wielding logs to defend the den and to get rid of baddies!
BENEFITS AND POSITIVE IMPACT:
During my visit I was delighted to see children displaying high levels of concentration and perseverance, for example when climbing trees, swinging on ropes or hauling logs. Children are confident and independent in the space and move freely around it. They negotiate their turn to use tools and they co-operate to access water from the water butt. They have lengthy conversations and play imaginatively with the natural features of the space, such as stones, mud, leaves, logs and branches. The EYFS(2012) places significant emphasis on the characteristics of effective teaching and learning; playing and exploring, active learning, and creating and thinking critically. In this setting staff are already ensuring that children are benefiting from outdoor experiences that nurture these three characteristics.
Beverley, the EYFS lead, writes; ‘we have seen children apply skills and knowledge gained ……..to other aspects of their lives and learning. For example, in the classroom more creative, active and independent learning is evident, and children now demonstrate a greater belief in themselves in areas such as speaking and listening. Furthermore, it has been extremely successful to the development and learning of our boys, as the large, natural learning environment lends itself for big, physical activities that nurtures “real life” experiential learning’.