A few weeks ago I had the privilege of visiting Derwent Stepping Stones Nursery in Derby. The staff and directors had realised that their outdoor play provision was in need of attention and decided to do something about it. One of the challenges facing settings which make this decision is knowing where to begin. Derwent Stepping Stones had been very creative around their use of images to engage and inform staff and parents.
Based upon the advice of a local early years consultant, Kate Young, the staff began to collect images of ideas about what children liked to do outside and how different zones may begin to look. Developing a vision is really helpful here.
- Imagine how your outdoor space would look and feel if it was the best it could possible be?
- What would children and staff be doing, feeling and saying?
Through pictures and words everyone can begin to visualise what they like. Staff had also been to visit Alfreton nursery with a strong tradition of outdoor practice to help inspire and motivate.
The staff spent considerable time searching online for motivational photos and quotes to help explain the reasons why outdoor play mattered. Below is an example of their huge scrap board. A member of staff from each unit has volunteered to be part of the team that will drive the project forward. This ensures that the needs and voices of all the children of all ages will be gathered and attended to.
Upon closer inspection, this is an example of some of the ideas collected…
The nursery have created a visual target board to help the community aim to raise £5000 towards the garden makeover. So far, over £3000 has been raised which is already being put to good use buying outdoor clothing and wellies.
The other day I received a lovely email update from Janet Holland, the manager.:
We have met with a really inspirational, back to nature, landscape designer and have completely re-thought the development of the land. We are literally going to do nothing to it, start going out with the children and see how it develops, e.g. put a tyre on the grass, if it is still there we can plant some seeds in it, we need to see how the space evolves and what sort of reaction it may get from the young people living in the area. In the meantime we now have two wheely suitcases we can take resources out in.
We are talking with the Children Centre about developing the ground in partnership and have at least made contact with the person who we will need to apply for permission to, in the meantime once we can secure the currently open exits, we will be out there.
Project team members have had a day’s training, are really geared up and motivated and we are visiting Alfreton and Little Explorers in the next few weeks. We featured outdoor play at our last full team meeting and think we have most people at least entertaining the idea. Consultation with children is going well and we are taking lots of pictures and getting quotes from children.
Big push on social media and today I have had a comment that by looking at our website you can tell we are really big on outdoor play!
We are planning to organise an event for international Outdoor Classroom Day on 18th May and will be looking out for ideas and suggestions over the coming weeks.
Outdoor clothing and footwear for children and staff now ordered, gathered up any sale items from several websites.
We have our first Garden Makeover Newsletter
The enthusiasm is fantastic and the nursery is providing a super example of what happens when determination and patience are combined. I’m sure I’ll have more news to report in due course 🙂
Meanwhile watch this space… 🙂