We believe that nature is at the root of all learning. Nature can provide a range of contexts which children can relate to, understand, and become really involved with. The planting and harvesting of vegetables, the creation of habitat piles to increase biodiversity in the area and the use of natural streams to explore the properties of water all give children tangible ways of working with and in nature to increase their connection to it. Children are able to explore nature in depth in nature’s time so some investigations might take a year or more.
We are often asked how we are preparing children for school if "all they do is play outside." We may not be doing worksheets, but we are always learning. By going to our outdoor fire pit and creating charcoal we are learning about heat and temperatures, oxidisation, STEM and much more. We can inspire and nurture a fascination in children for many different 'school' subjects such as Physics and History which will last with them for life by learning through nature.
Children’s voices and the process of learning are recorded in Talking and Thinking Floorbooks®, a method developed by Claire Warden. These books are created with the children; they share their ideas and contribute their understanding at their own level. They document group learning experiences and consultations and value each child as an individual recording their progress and understanding throughout. Families are invited to come in regularly and share the Floorbooks with their children. The children all have individual learning stories which include documentation of their learning journeys.
Working Together with Families
The link between the family and the nursery is of vital importance for the child’s progress. Families know their child best and so communication between parents and staff is crucial. Care is taken to involve parents/carers in all aspects of children’s progress through:
Families are kept informed of Kindergarten activities though a Parents’ Notice Board, regular newsletters, photographs and letters before specific events. Families also have the opportunity for informal discussion daily when they bring and collect their child. Families are encouraged to help evaluate the service and the opportunities children are being offered. We also invite families to add to our Communication Book, where they can share their own thoughts and experiences with us. Families are also encouraged to share the documentation of learning journeys with their children while at home.
From Home to Kindergarten
This step is recognised as being of great importance and staff work to ensure that starting nursery is a happy experience for both child and parent. To help ensure a smooth start we offer a flexible settling in programme and are happy to co-operate with parents during this process. A pre-entry visit is arranged to familiarise parents and children with the Kindergarten environment. Every effort is made to ensure that a new child feels welcome and soon as a sense of “belonging” to the Kindergarten.
Each child is an individual
In the diverse world we live in families may have differing values and practices and every child has differing abilities, strengths and needs. During observations, assessments and planning we identify areas for development and next steps for all children. Not all children have the same level of confidence, and so we gently increase 'risk' and 'challenge' with children to push them outside of their comfort zone. We do not believe in forcing children to do activities that they do not want to do, but we also believe in letting persevere through and challenge (such as lighting a small fire or trying to climb a hill) without interfering in their own learning. When opportunities present themselves through children’s interests we develop opportunities to investigate different cultures and global perspectives and celebrations. We invite families to come in and share various aspects of their culture with the staff and children.
Valuing the work your child creates - we create creators! We celebrate the process of creativity and not just the end product. Children of this age are still developing their gross and fine motor skills and manipulation small tools takes time and effort. As an environmentally friendly nursery we encourage transient art and children can produce amazingly intricate displays with natural materials which are photographed to record the process. Creativity may also be displayed in the construction room through complex structures.
Curriculum - Our curriculum is nature based, following the “Pre Birth to Three” for children aged 2 to 3 years and the Scottish “Curriculum for Excellence” for children from 3 to 18 years.
Auchlone also follows Getting It Right for Every Child framework (or GIRFEC) to ensure each indivual child at Auchlone feels Safe, Healthy, Achieving, Nurtured, Active, Respected, Responsible and Included.
To find out more about GIRFEC please visit www.gov.scot/Topics/People/Young-People/gettingitright
The majority of our learning takes place outside where children can explore the concepts and achieve the expected outcomes in a very practical, sensorial, active and contextual manner as recommended in the new curriculum. Our highly consultative environment encourages children to explore curricular concepts using higher order thinking, problem solving, self-risk assessing and complex language. Collecting wood for the fire involves estimation, measuring, sorting by complex criteria, science, keeping safe, sharing, taking turns, developing manual dexterity, discussion, etc. Physical development of both gross motor and fine motor control is naturally encouraged in this environment. The skill of our practitioners lies in identifying the learning: then recording this in the Talking and Thinking Floorbooks™ as well as the children’s learning story book.
"The outdoor aspect is just what they want to do. They are given the right sort of encouragement." (Parent interviewed by Care Inspectorate, 2012)
"We feel so lucky to have this place nearby. It's giving our child a lot of confidence when mixing with other children. She is flourishing. We have had a newsletter and an open evening." (Parent interviewed by Care Inspectorate, 2012)