There is a growing amount of research that demonstrates the value of outdoor learning in the early years and the positive impact this can have on self-esteem, physical health and even language skills, not to mention the increased awareness and positivity of nature and the environment.
At St Margaret’s, we see first-hand the significance of extending the learning that takes place in the classroom into the outdoors as demonstrated by our Wee Green Spaces initiative, which provides opportunities for child-led learning through a variety of activities and experiences.
Our nursery is set in the heart of Aberdeen, allowing us to take full advantage of local amenities and learn about our community. As well as making use of our own safe and enclosed playground on a daily basis, we regularly use our local green space at Bon Accord Terrace Gardens to increase our learning.
Wee Green Spaces incorporates a wide variety of skills enabling children to develop problem-solving, awareness of risk taking and the ability to keep safe and build confidence. The opportunities outdoors are endless and enable children to explore the local environment. We go on bug hunts, build dens and swings, explore secret paths, climb walls and roll down hills to name a few.
The learning, however, begins before we even leave nursery when the children are packing their own bags, getting their waterproof trousers and wellies on and putting on their high visibility vests, at times helping each other with the tricky bits. We talk about keeping safe and, as we walk down to the gardens, we talk about things we see in the environment and how they relate to what we are learning about.
While out and about, we also take advantage of further opportunities afforded in learning, including the numeracy and literacy of our everyday surroundings. We create stories about who lives behind the doors we pass and remember the different numbers on them. We look for letters on signs and different types of buildings. We even have time for a snack at the gardens, which the children have packed in their bags and, if we are lucky, we can sit in the sunshine and look out across the park listening and watching the birds, dog walkers and aeroplanes.
Living in the North-east, we can never guarantee that the sun will shine, but a little bit of rain doesn’t put us off! It just offers more opportunities for fun because we can splash in puddles, look at reflections, find worms and eat our snack in our tent. Learning outdoors really does bring so many wonderful and new opportunities for the children and they love every minute.
Jenn Minett, St Margaret’s Nursery Manager