The ‘Early Learning in Nature’ project (2009- 2014) works in each year with a small number of early years groups who regularly visit and become familiar with their very own ‘wild place’, engaging in exciting, imaginative and elemental learning.
The project is designed to give children with limited access to natural environments sustained opportunities for engaging with nature. It provides a sound basis for respect, understanding and stewardship of the natural world, as well as a rich resource for social and cognitive growth.
A specially equipped bus provides the children and their educators with transport from early years settings-nursery, school or playgroup – to a place of natural interest. The bus is equipped with seats, storage, materials, tables, toilets, outdoor clothing and I.T. equipment. It offers a unique base from which to work, and make woodland sites accessible and viable environments for early years’ groups.
An arts practitioner and educator/ environmentalist work in partnership with the children’s usual educators, introducing, accompanying and exploring with them in the selected wild place. We work together ‘in the wild’ but also importantly in the ‘home base’ environment where learning can be significantly built upon. Our pedagogic principles are based on supporting children’s enquiries, and all the adults involved - the children’s educators and the project staff - work closely together in seeing and responding to the fascinations of the special place.
Key Elements of the project
Each early years group of up to thirty children will have one woodland visit per week for two terms, to a ‘wild place’ within reach of their home base in the specially equipped bus.
On alternate weeks the project team - of creative enabler and environmental educator- will work with the children and staff back at their setting to develop the outdoor experiences.
The staff team will be supported by regular input from a critical friend who will help unpick and analyse the learning experiences of the group
The educators will have termly opportunities to reflect on the ‘Woodland Experience’ with the other participating groups. There are also opportunities for experience sessions for other groups to broaden the experiences.