Outdoor Learning through the Seasons by Ann Watts is essential reading for early years practitioners wanting to make the best use of their outdoor environment throughout the year.
Ann Watts is a highly experienced early years consultant with a strong belief that the outdoor environment has a crucial role to play in children’s learning and development. The book has three distinct sections; part one looks at outdoor learning within the Early Years Foundation Stage and considers the role of the outdoor environment in nurturing the characteristics of effective learning –those aspects of good early years practice that support children to become lifelong learners. It provides helpful information about design, layout and planting to support practitioners to create an enabling environment and offers inspiring and accessible ideas for activities within each of the seven areas of learning. The final chapter in part one acknowledges the importance of the partnership with parents. Recognising that ‘children need consistency of approach’ Ann offers practical advice and support to practitioners wanting to promote the importance of outdoors to parents and involve them in the development of the outdoor space.
Part two explores the use of outdoors through the four seasons. In recognition that many practitioners feel unsure of how to make best use of the seasonal changes to enrich children’s outdoor spaces, Ann encourages practitioners to ‘enter the world of the child and see the world around us through their eyes’. Through practical, low cost ideas tailored to make the most of the changing seasons practitioners are supported to ‘take children outside and explore with them the changing and dynamic world in which we live’.
Part three provides a fresh perspective by examining the use of outdoors through each of the four elements; earth, air, water and fire. In advocating play and learning through the use of the elements on a daily basis Ann challenges practitioners to offer children the opportunity to reconnect with nature in an enriching and meaningful way. She suggests that using the elements to support play and learning connects children to their ancestral roots and promotes a sense of their place and belonging in their world. Each element is explored and practical suggestions are made to help practitioners embed experiences into their daily outdoor practice. Advice and suggestions about sources of further information conclude each section.
The book concludes with a quote from Ofsted recognising that;
Children who learn outdoors, know more, understand more, feel better, work more cooperatively and are physically healthier. This is not just for able of more motivated pupils: underachievers also do better in a natural environment, especially when exposed to high quality stimulating activities’
(Ofsted cited in Moss 2012:9)
If you believe that outdoor environments matter to young children this book will help you to make high quality outdoor learning an integral part of your early years practice.