OBE – Our Brilliant Educators

22 June 2009 · 0 comments

in General Commentary

Last week TESS had a brief article which told the Scottish Eduworld who has been honoured by the Queen. Normally I don’t bother reading these things. After all if Mick Jagger can get an knighthood then anyone can…?

…except in education, it’s not that easy. To begin with, there are tens of thousands of school, local authority and government staff all working their socks off for the greater good of our children – who are Scotland’s future. What makes a person so special as to deserve an honourable mention?

Lynn McNair who is head of Cowgate Under 5’s Centre in Edinburgh received an OBE. TESS mentions the great HMIe report and work with families which takes place here. Yet lots of pre-school centres do a wonderful job and receive positive inspections, so what’s the big deal?

Let me tell you the parts, TESS doesn’t…

In this inner city pre-school setting, the work of Friedrich Froebel underpins all practice. Froebel advocated outdoor play provision as essential for children’s learning and development. He also believed that children learn best through spontaneous child-centred play, and that they should be surrounded by kindness, understanding and beauty. The focus is on providing “free, joyful, sensory rich, adventurous play in the natural world.” Lynn and her staff have a clear vision and set of principles which are about a whole lot more than delivering a Curriculum for Excellence and other government expectations. Outdoor play which enables children to connect to nature is central to the centre’s ethos. It is not just an extra area, like the craft table, water tray or imaginative play corner. The outdoor space has been very carefully designed using natural materials and with careful thought to provision of genuinely challenging physical activities.

I really hope that Lynn’s honour is the first of many to follow in the outdoor learning world. Here in Scotland we have educators who are pioneering new approaches and prepared to take the risk of going beyond a Curriculum for Excellence in their philosophies and ways of working with very young children. This is what makes a difference. This is the big deal.

So let’s celebrate with, and for, Lynn and her team. I also want to toast other outdoor educators who are blazing new paths such as Cathy Bache who runs the Secret Garden in Fife and Claire Warden who established the Mindstretchers Nature Kindergarten’s in Perthshire. Joyce Gilbert, an education officer with the RSPB, is another unsung hero. After a Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowhip to Canada, she set up Spey Grian, a charity that provides experiential outdoor courses for teachers in the summer holidays. Long live our OBE’s!

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