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  • Making Maple Syrup in Michigan by Rachel Larimore

    This blog was written in early 2016 while Rachel worked at Chippewa Nature Center.  Late February and early March is a magical time in Michigan! At Chippewa Nature Center’s Nature Preschool in Midland, Michigan (United States) we take full advantage of this unique time to connect to nature in a way that is unique to our place in the world. This time of the year is when the maple trees send nutrient-filled from roots to buds in order produce the first leaves of the season. The exciting part is collecting, boiling, and making the sap into sweet and tasty maple syrup. For generations people in the northeastern United States and southeastern Canada have been making syrup in the springtime after trees have been dormant for a few months and nighttime temperatures are below freezing and daytime temperatures are above freezing. It’s also important that collection occur before the buds open or the sap becomes bitter—yuck! While all trees have sap the maple tree has a higher concentration of sugar, so it takes less boiling to evaporate the excess water and make syrup. At Nature Preschool we have an annual study of maple trees that includes activities inside, outside, and beyond the play area. When children first arrive in the morning they always sign-in, and during maple syrup season we make these sign-in activities connected to maple syrup. For example, predicting how many gallons of sap we’ll collect that day. In the outdoor play space we have sap buckets hanging from trees so children can check them during free play. Children are often seen integrating maple syrup production into their outdoor imaginative play, such the giant sap blender a group made using a section of pipe. (By the way, we don’t normally blend sap—this was their own extension.)    However, the most exciting activities are when we load up our “sap wagon” and leave the play area. The first day we focus on identifying maple trees by noticing buds, bark, and opposite branching. Once we’ve found the right trees, we drill a hole in the tree, hammer in a spile, and hang a bucket. If we’re really lucky it will be a day where the sap is flowing and will begin dripping immediately. (This of course requires a taste test!) Then, over the course of a couple of weeks we visit those trees every day to see how much sap we have gathered in our buckets. After collecting the sap each day, we head back to the classroom where we measure the sap into one-gallon containers and count our season total. Our goal is 40 gallons of sap because that’s how much sap it takes to make 1 gallon of syrup, which we celebrate with a pancake breakfast! Towards the end of the season we also have an extra special outing where we hike to the nature center’s Sugarhouse to see the sap being boiled in the evaporator pan over the woodstove.    All of these activities are ways to connect children to the natural world unique to our community, which helps create a sense of place. There are many other positive child outcomes, such as children becoming tuned into seasonal changes; classifying; counting; measuring volume; and much more! But most importantly? It’s a fun and magical time to be in the woods—for children and adults alike! Written by Rachel A. Larimore. Rachel Larimore is a previous Director of Education at Chippewa Nature Center in Midland, Michigan, USA. She is a Claire Warden associate trainer. She wrote the book “Establishing a Nature-Based Preschool” and is currently a doctoral student at Michigan State University focusing on nature-based early childhood education. Learn more about Rachel and her work.

  • Why I love Forest School

      Our senior trainer Kate Hookham tells us why she loves Forest School in an interview with Steven. Kate is what you would describe as an outdoors person. She loves nothing more using outdoor adventures and explorations to create valuable learning opportunities. From running around with the children at Auchlone to maintaining the tools and grounds at our center for excellence, getting Kate to sit down with you for an interview can be quite the task. With our upcoming Forest School courses I wanted to speak with Kate about why she is passionate about the methodology. *Please note that this interview is just one person's experiences of forest school in the UK and does not constitute a specific definition of forest school, and nor is it the only way that forest school training can be run.    SW: So Kate, lets talk about one of your passions - Forest School. Can you give us a quick description of what Forest School actually is? KH: No! [She laughs] Of course I can. Forest School is an approach developed by group of students and their lecturers from Bridgewater College in England after they visited Scandinavia in 1993. They were amazed by the learning methods used and so developed what they saw into a 3 level course in 1995.  Forest school, in essence, is when a trained practitioner takes a group of children to a woodland space to learn. The duration is often one afternoon a week for a period of 6 weeks. It is usually associated with bush craft and the construction of a shelter and the use of knots, tools and fire but this is not essential. Forest School Level 2 allows you to become an assistant forest school leader, whereas Forest School Level 3 allows you to become a forest school leader. SW: What is the difference between Forest School and other Outdoor Learning methodologies? KH: Forest school is certified or can be a qualification depending on which agency you undertaken your training with and which country you reside in. Forest School is often bush craft focused and for a 6 week block. Outdoor learning on the other hand is an ethos. The Forest School approach could be part of your approach to outdoor learning. It is one of many different and viable methodologies. Equally you could follow the Journeys into Nature approach using the elements to explore outdoor learning and teach STEAM, or even schematic outdoor learning. Infographic about outdoor learning created from the England Natural Connections Project 2016 SW: It's a bit of a silly question, but do you have to actually have a nearby forest to take part in Forest School training? KH: No question is a silly question! You don't necessarily have to have woodland to use as it's the methodology that's important. We use the wood around Auchlone and have found it to provide children with many different learning opportunities, however not all settings have access to such a space. You can use any type of outdoor area from beaches to forests and even your own outdoor area. So long as there are sufficient outdoor resources and you are following the methodology go for it. SW: So how does the forest school methodology actually benefit children? KH: It builds up their confidence to survive and thrive in an outdoor environment. We use aspects of forest school at Auchlone and you can see how quickly children build their confidence and skills. At first, some of them can be hesitant but after a few weeks they all love it. They learn how and when to undertake Benefit Risk Assessments, how to use tools, and hit all their basic physiological needs: keeping warm, dry, having enough to eat, drink and use nature as a learning tool. SW: It definitely benefits children then, but how does it help educators and their settings? KH: A lot of educators that we work with find the idea of taking children outdoors quite intimidating, especially if it involves taking them into the beyond and remote locations. Completing forest school training can give them confidence to take children outside to learn and play. It will even help the educator boost their own skills and learn how to step outside of their comfort zone by taking risks. It of course looks good on your Curriculum Vitae and the outdoor paediatrics first aid course is something, in my opinion, all staff who take children outside should have. Settings should also be aware that while forest school is fantastic, it's not the only outdoor learning ethos out there. Settings should consider what it is they need and go for what will work best for their staff, location and resources.  Photograph: leaves on a Talkaround Mat after Auchlone Nature Kindergarten's leaf hunt SW: What is your favourite thing about Forest School? KH: I am a bit of a bush craft geek and so I love learning new crafts, knots and things to cook on the fire. I love taking these new ideas to the children at Auchlone and at our holiday camps and experimenting and playing with them. For instance, at our October Camp last year I brought in some jellyfish and tried to make some jellyfish burgers with the children. They did turn out more like risotto and I don't think the office staff were too happy when I forced them to try it [she laughs]. The children absolutely loved it though and wanted to learn more about fish which is the whole point. I also really enjoy tool care and maintanence - as any of my colleagues will tell you, I am quite fussy about our tools! SW: What would be your top forest school tips to an educator? KH: Be prepared! Always have your kit ready and frequently check it to make sure it's in good condition. Make sure you go with the interests of the children and the weather for that day. And don't be afraid to try new things - I am constantly looking for new ideas to share with colleagues and to try out. You can never know enough about nature and bush craft. There is always something to learn and so much online or in great books. SW: Finally, what would you say to anyone who is considering starting their Forest School training? KH: If you love the outdoors but are a little nervous about going outside it will reassure you and justify to others why you are doing it. If you're confident in the outdoors already it will still help to sharpen your skills and understandings and will give you the qualification you need to create or support a forest school setting. It's also a tonne of fun and you get to spend time with me - you should definitely do it! SW: Well thanks for your time Kate! That's all my questions over. KH: If anyone wants to know more about forest school or has any questions they're free to email me at Now if you'll excuse me I can hear some wood whittlers calling my name! Mindstretchers is running Forest School Level 2 and Forest School Level 3 training in May this year. Get in touch or visit our Forest School page for more information.  Blog written by Steven Watson, interviewee Kate Hookham.  Feedback on this blog? Email Looking for advice about forest school training? Email  Share  

  • The System: using Floorbooks to support inclusion by Rebecca Thompson

      The System: using Floorbooks to support inclusion I watched him for about two weeks, walking up and down the perimeter of the yard. It didn’t concern me that he wasn’t ‘playing’ because I knew he had an intention. They (the system) thought it was because he wanted to get out. Although I didn’t know what he was doing, I wasn’t convinced that it was plotting escape. In a place where you should only be limited by your imagination, you were limited in your imagination. The environment certainly didn’t give you much to work with! Concrete drains, steel fences as high as the eye could see and one measly plastic balance beam 2 inches off the ground. He walked. He continued to walk up and down the concrete drain-way and around the fence line for weeks and weeks. Then one day, he peered in the drain and put his ear to it. Going from looking to listening to looking again, he began to walk in a strange square-like figure eight around the ostensible outdoor space. I watched. I wished I could give him more. More things to engage him. I thought we needed more things. In a place where you should only be limited by your imagination we needed more things right!? I cried louder for more things. In two weeks we got much more things for him and the other children to engage with. He walked. He continued to walk. And when ‘things’ were in his way, he moved them. He was frequently checking the drain with his eyes and ears, engrossed with it on a daily basis. I had to write this down. I wrote. I watched him and I recorded stories about his legs, his arms, his eyes, his ears and his brain. I showed it to the world of boxes and ticks and labels and names. Nothing made sense. He wasn’t interested in writing or even talking to me about what I had written in the boxes. The only people that were concerned with this writing was the system. How would he go to school if he couldn’t write!? He continued to walk. But today, I walked with him. I didn’t wonder, I didn’t despair. I walked. I stopped writing and just walked. I did this for weeks and simultaneously decided to place a collection of shared writing in a floorbook in the ‘cool down’ area for children to re-visit and write about. We also decided to have a teacher there too, just in case anyone needed some help to write. He stopped. He stopped walking. When no one was looking he went to book corner. To the book. He wrote. He made his mark. He showed me the way. The way to the sea, you see. He was walking the drains, the underground plumbing. He made a map of the entire plumbing system underneath the ground. He walked to work it out, walking and listening and looking. Feeling and sensing the environment around him with much more than just his eyes. This is a story about how Floorbooks enabled a group of educators to reach a child with Autism. The opportunity for this child to draw the plumbing system under the ground enabled them to communicate regularly. His ideas, thoughts, feelings and opinions were finally heard. We stopped writing about his legs, arms and brain and started to see his meaning on paper. Floorbooks are a window to the sense children make of the world. Everyone is heard when Floorbooks are the voice. The book was left in the book corner right near his favourite cushion and when nothing made sense he would revisit his maps. He was also allowing other children to track his maps with their fingers and they talked about them with each other. This is how he shared ideas with peers, not exactly how the box wanted him to, but instead how he wanted to. Often we expect children to come up with some sort of drawing or representation of their learning after they learn it, or even to write their name. The pressure placed on them to ‘produce’ this can often impact on the ‘product’. We as teachers also place pressure on ourselves to document what is not there. This story shows that if a climate of support and ease with no pressure is created children are more likely to share genuine representations of their thinking and we are more likely to want to write about it. Because let’s face it we do not all think the same and nor should we! The safety and security of a Floorbook allowed him to connect and communicate with us. We knew that it wasn’t simply allowing him to draw in a communal book that allowed for this engagement. Floorbooks are so much more than that. Our role (the adult) was important: we needed to foster and facilitate the thinking and sharing as it occurred, but in a way that he and his peers would be motivated to participate. Some of his peers requested daily to go back to the maps and track them. They asked questions about plumbing and drainage systems and we tested it out using pipes and water. We also talked about the rain and catchment and how we conserve water. Each person had something to bring to the thinking as it evolved and sometimes we worried that his voice would get lost in the ‘projects’. We just kept bringing it back (using Talking Tubs as our refocus) and remembering why we started the journey in the first place. It was to look at the fascination of water systems in concrete jungle but it was also to resist a system that put him in a box. More Information One of the barriers to the successful inclusion of children with additional needs is that of ‘participation’. Children have ‘access’ to early childhood settings by welcoming the enrolment, including the child physically in to the setting with other children. Most of the time children are participating in the program in some form however a closer look at the quality and level of participation is crucial in order to be beneficial for all stakeholders. This means taking in to account how your documentation is offered and if it is accessible to children in the way they can offer their skills, knowledge and insight. By using Floorbooks as a way to map progress, not only teachers but children, families and community members can help to plan for high expectations resulting in good outcomes for the child. This blog was written by Rebecca of Stone & Sprocket Rebecca is an Early Childhood Consultant operating on the east coast of New South Wales, Australia. With 17 years experience and a Master of Inclusive Education, Rebecca supports her community in the successful inclusion of children with additional needs. With many years spent focusing on building strategies around the child to fit in, Rebecca’s focus has turned to using environments (physical and interpersonal) as a consideration in supporting participation and enacting rights. This is where an automatic kinship with nature pedagogy propelled her in to combining the two: nature and inclusion. She strongly believes that the ownership, sense of self, mindfulness and multiple senses engaged that children experience when outdoors is the catalyst for social justice. Rebecca is running a Floorbooks course in Melbourne. Find out more information here. Want to learn more about Floorbooks? Join the discussion on our Floorbooks Facebook Group Visit our training dates page to see all available Floorbook training in the UK Visit the Claire Warden website to see all available Floorbooks training internationally  Complete one of our online courses wherever you are References Allen, K. & Cowdery, G. (2015) The Exceptional Child. Inclusion in Early Childhood Education, 8th Edn, Cengage Learning, USA: Stamford. Bowes, J. (2004) Children, Families & Communities. Contexts and Consequences, 2nd Edn, Oxford, VIC: South Melbourne. Cook, R., Klein, M. & tessier, A. (2004) Adapting early Childhood Curricula for Children in Inclusive Settings, 6th Edn, Pearson, USA: New Jersey. Warden, C. (2015) Learning with Nature. Embedding Outdoor Practice, Sage, London. Share  

  • Ideas for Talking Tubs: Winter and Summer

      Welcome to Floorbooks Friday, a blogging session in which we at Mindstretchers will try to answer some of the common questions surrounding Floorbooks as well ideas and tips for their use. Floorbooks are part of the Talking and Thinking Floorbook Approach™ as developed by Claire Warden (1994) in her book Talking and Thinking Floorbooks (3rd ed, 2015). Last week we launched our TES Resources Shop (where we provide downloadable talking tub planners and lesson plans.) Since then we’ve had a lot of requests for more information about talking tubs. When I first got to grips with Talking Tubs it was quite daunting to try and think of items to fill one with, especially if they are based on an unexpected Possible Line of Development (PLOD.) However, with experience and experimentation you can quickly become an expert talking tubs user. In a 0-11 setting, seasons can be great themes for learning and lend themselves well to PLODs. Depending on where you are in the world, you’re either going into Winter or Summer. To help you get started with a seasonal talking tub, we’ve come up with ideas for both a winter and a summer tub.  Both are from previous PLODs developed at Auchlone Nature Kindergarten. Talking Tubs work best when based on PLODs: when a child shows an interest in a particular topic (such as birds) a talking tub can be used in conjunction with a Floorbook to create a really valuable learning experience which is linked to the curriculum. In selecting your items you should consider what will create discussion and stimulate interest for children. You should avoid filling a tub for the sake of filling a tub: as with many things, it is the quality of the items rather than the quantity. You also do not want to overload children with ideas.  Winter Talking Tub (find a general Winter talking tub planner here) On a cold winter’s day at Auchlone Nature Kindergarten the children were mesmerized when snow began to fall in between the trees. The team decided it was a great opportunity to create a talking tub on snow and ice to teach about changing temperatures and how nature adapts. The tubs were filled with the following items (examples of open ended questions which a practitioner can ask to generate discussion are included): A photo of Auchlone covered in snow from the day discussion started: why is snow cold, where does snow come from and how is it made, how does weather work? A photo of ice (after the investigation the children went out to look for actual ice which they couldn’t find due to the increase in temperature): where does ice come from and where does it go, what do fish do if they’re under the ice, why is ice slippery?   Model igloo: why don’t igloos melt, who builds igloos, where and why are igloos built, why don’t they use bricks or sticks instead of ice, how do people stay warm inside an igloo Thermometer: why is summer warm and winter cold, how do weather forecasters know what the weather will be? Thermometers are currently on sale at our shop.  Brown and white fur (said to be from a rabbit): what do animals do in winter, why do rabbits change colour, what colours do animals change to? Pine Cones and acorns: why do trees make pine cones, why do squirrels bury nuts and seeds? Hibernation Den (a small basket filled with leaves, sticks, a small piece of fabric and other materials. It is designed to look like a bed where an animal could sleep): where do animals go during winter, why do they sleep for so long, why don’t they get hungry? Summer Items (find a general Summer talking tub planner here) A group of children were discussing what they were going to be doing over the summer holidays. It was clear that some of them were very excited by the idea of getting to go to a warm beach. The staff decided this interest in beaches was a good theme to create discussion. The tubs were filled with the following items (examples of open ended questions which a practitioner can ask to generate discussion are included): Fishing line and lures: why do things float, what do fish eat, how do we get food? Parasol: why do parasols make shade, why do we need shade? Model and photos of fish: how do fish breath underwater, how do fish swim, why do fish have scales? Treasure (coins, assorted gemstones and metals): why are objects buried, how long are objects buried for, how deep can we dig underground? Photos of waves: where do waves come from, why is the sea salty, where do waves go, Seashells: what creates seashells, what pushes them up onto the beach? Model ship and fabric: how do ships float, how do sailors know where they are going, what materials work as sails? Driftwood: why does wood float, what can you build with the wood, would driftwood be good for making a fire? Tub of sand: why are things buried under the sand, why does sand feel soft, how did sand get to the beach? General Tips: A practitioner needs to be creative and think about items which children can easily identify as representing a specific topic. For example, in our Beaches talking tub a bucket was too big so the practitioner picked a small spade to represent the activity. Instead of drift wood, sticks from nearby trees were collected. Larger objects can also be brought in, but to utilize the talking tub they need to be small enough to pass around and grip. In our examples we carefully chose items to appeal to a range of learning styles. The animal fur and the tub of sand were to allow children to really run their hands through the objects and let them feel them. The photographs allow more visual learners to connect with the object and think about it. To get the most out of your talking tub you should try and appeal to as many learning styles as possible. Almost anything can arise as a PLOD. We need to encourage children to create their own learning links, and help to support this learning. For instance, the driftwood might cause a child to remember their dog playing with wood on the beach. This could lead to a discussion and investigation into dogs which the practitioner wouldn’t have thought of otherwise. As a practitioner you must be open, ask open ended questions, and be prepared to adventure into the unknown with your children. If you are looking for specific talking tub planners, we now provide them on our TES store. We have a planner for winter and for summer (as well as a special bundle of all 4 seasons) to help you get started and begin generating ideas. Want to know more about Talking Tubs? Come on our Provocations for Thinking: Talking Tubs course or email for information about booking it in your setting.   What would you fill a winter animals and beach tub with? Let us know in the comments on Facebook. You can also join our Floorbooks Facebook group! Blog written by Steven Watson. Is there a topic you would like discussed in a future blog or do you have feedback on this one? Email Share this blog on Facebook: Share

  • How Floorbooks can re-engage children

    Floorbooks are a part of the Talking and Thinking Floorbook Approach® as developed by Claire Warden (1994), and discussed in Claire's book Talking and Thinking Floorbooks (3rd ed, 2015). Floorbooks are a child-led approach to documentation and planning which give children a place to write down or draw their thoughts about a topic, or for an adult to write down accurate child voices. The Talking and Thinking Floorbook Approach can be adopted by any educator working with 0-11 year olds. A common problem for educators is trying to re-engage with children who have lost interest either in a specific topic or in occasionally in many topics. Floorbooks are often cited as a useful tool to re-engage children, but why? Here are 5 reasons why Floorbooks are seen as a useful re-engagement tool. #1 Learning is entirely based on child interests Lesson plans can be created from themes which children show an interest in. By following up on Possible Lines of Development (PLODs) and really listening to what children are saying a practitioner can ensure that any learning is of real interest to children. Instead of getting children to learn through abstract examples that they may not understand or that they have no interest in, we can teach complex subjects such as flight or engineering through every day interests like birds and boxes. Both adults and children are much more engaged when learning about something they genuinely want to learn about, and we should be trying to include such interests in every day learning. Not only will this engage them but it can greatly boost their confidence with oral and writing skills as well as their creativity.  #2 They cater to all learning styles Everybody has a dominant learning style, whether it is Visual, Auditory or Kinesthetic. Floorbooks allow us to appeal to all kinds of learners. Visual learners will benefit from being able to write down their thoughts or by creating small and personal diagrams on the Floorbook. Auditory learners will benefit from group discussions around a Talkaround Mat about the learners, and will be able to create links in their learning through such discussions. Talking Tubs encourage children to pass around objects and really get a feel for a variety of objects related to the wider topic, appealing to Kinesthetic learners. The voice of the child is always evidenced in the Floorbook through writing or recordings alongside photos and drawings which show active engagement. If the evidence shows that a particular child hasn’t been engaging much then the practitioner can adjust their style to re-engage with a particular child. #3 Multiple ongoing themes A Floorbook is not limited to one topic: a good Floorbook should flow like a river down the learning interests of children. At Auchlone Nature Kindergarten near Crieff, we recently completed a Floorbook which started about medieval knights. From knights, discussion began about the types of clothing they would wear and how it differs from clothing today. After identifying a real interest from the children we were able to create a learning experience about clothing, which alerted us to a further interest around colours and dyes. While investigating dyes, we included a mathematics activities about litres and mixtures. Without using the Talking and Thinking Floorbooks Approach we may never have discovered a child interest and the learning may have stopped at medieval knights. A child may not be interested in the current topic, but the Floorbook approach will allow you to follow different lines of enquiry at the same time with different groups of children. A Floorbook about birds may have two different activities going at the same time: one group may be investigating eggs and lifecycles whereas another group may choose to investigate nests, habitats and structures. By really listening to children and giving them the freedom and the confidence to lead their own learning we can keep them engaged. #4 Empowered Learners The child-led nature of Floorbooks means that children become proactive learners very quickly. Whenever I visit Auchlone, it is immediately clear how confident children can become from engaging with the approach on the daily basis. We should view children as young authors and illustrators: a Floorbook simply gives them a canvas to express their ideas and imagination. A key part of the Floorbook is that we allow children a sense of ownership over it. All of the children sign or mark the inner cover in some way, reinforcing the idea that they are taking ownership of their own learning. They will be able to take pride in their learning because of the Floorbook that they have helped to create, and revisiting their Floorbook in the future will help to develop new links in their learning. Letting children take direct control of their learning through following up on PLODs and asking open ended questions will not only improve confidence but will also inspire children. #5 They are informative and fun Play is such a key part of every child’s upbringing and education. In discussing all of the ways that children are engaged by Floorbooks, it can be easy to forget that they work so well because children genuinely enjoy creating them. The entire Floorbook approach appeals to a child's expressive side. We don't force a Floorbook upon any child, but instead provide it as an optional way to express themselves. Many children struggle under heavily structured and formalised learning. An informal approach, even if it isn't adopted every day, can make learning seem like less of a lesson and more like a fun activity. My biggest piece of advice to anyone looking to use the Floorbooks approach to engage children is this: be enthusiastic; be passionate; be committed to child-led learning, and be supportive to boost child confidence levels. By really understanding and believing in the ethos behind the approach you will be able to re-engage with children. You can join our Floorbooks Facebook Group or visit our website to find out more about the Talking and Thinking Floorbooks Approach. Blog written by Steven Watson.   Do you have an idea or topic you would like discussed in a blog? Email with your sugesstions and feedback.  Share this blog on Facebook: Share

  • The Leaf Hunt

          At Auchlone Nature Kindergarten, as well as many other settings around the world, the changing of the seasons can often capture the imaginations of children. This week at Auchlone the children and staff took part in a leaf hunt to find different types of leaves, observing how the differing colours represent the change in the season. As is encouraged through Claire Warden’s Talking and Thinking Floorbook Approach, different children were interested in different topics. Some children were interested in the different vibrant colours, while others wanted to learn about “where leaves went” after they had rotted and disappeared.  A few children discussed how the changing seasons affect leaves: At the end of the adventure all of the leaves were laid out onto a Talkaround Mat to allow children to examine the entire range of different textures, designs and colours. This type of experiential learning is crucial to nurturing a child’s relationship with nature. Manager Danielle Ramsay said “last year we gathered a lot of shades of red, so we will try the colour wheel again next week to see if there are any changes in the leaves.” This continued exploration through nature and the seasons provides valuable learning experiences for children. We look forward to hearing about how the leaves change! Auchlone Nature Kindergarten is based near Crieff, Scotland. Children spend 80% of their time outdoors with the centre practicing Claire Warden philosophies on a daily basis. Every 2nd Thursday is Auchlone Thursday where we discuss what has been happening at Auchlone in recent weeks.  You can visit Auchlone on our Nature Kindergarten Days. Share this blog on Facebook: Share  

  • But what is a Floorbook?

      Share Blog written by Steven Watson. Do you want to write a guest blog? Email Steven for more information.  Welcome to Floorbooks Friday, a blogging session in which we at Mindstretchers will try to answer some of the common questions surrounding Floorbooks as well ideas and tips for their use. Floorbooks are part of the Talking and Thinking Floorbook Approach™ as developed by Claire Warden (1994) in her book Talking and Thinking Floorbooks (3rd ed, 2015). For our first ever Floorbooks Friday we have decided to answer the age old question “but what actually is a Floorbook?” There are many different descriptions and uses of a Floorbook, and as such it can be easy to get confused as to what a Floorbook actually is. We have compiled a list of 4 main definitions of a Floorbook to help you get started on your Floorbooks journey.     A Floorbook is... A child-led learning resource  A key aspect of the Floorbook is that the approach is child-led. Children decide what the flow of the lesson will be depending on what has taken their interest, with adults being able to develop these ideas further. Using what children are interested in to create lessons allows the curriculum to be carried out in an innovative and fun way.     A Floorbook is... A method of developing Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) Floorbooks encourage children to question and be critical of concepts which they hold a personal interest in. By challenging children to create links in their own learning we can develop higher order thinking. Floorbooks are a method of finding out what children know before, during and after a block of structured experiences. They are therefore a great record of showing how HOTS have improved.     A Floorbook is... A Planning Tool Through use of a Floorbook practitioners can create Possible Lines of Development (PLODs) which will allow for future lesson planning. 3D mind mapping and Talking Tubs are often at the centre of a lesson involving floorbooks. From this it is easy for practitioners to see what children are interested in and therefore what future lessons can cover.     A Floorbook is... At the heart of excellent child centered learning When used to their full extent, Floorbooks will be at the heart of your practice through the Talking and Thinking Floorbooks Approach. Children can access a Floorbook whenever they wish to, and floorbooks can be used on as and when is appropriate to create and support lessons. Adopting the approach in your setting will create an environment of listening and encouragement which children will flourish in. You can learn more about Floorbooks at Claire Warden’s “Introduction to Floorbooks” online course. Of course, there are many more definitions, key features and benefits of a Floorbook than just the four listed above. It is also a genuine record of children’s voices, a way to engage with all types of learners, a collaborative project, a source of pride for children, an exhibit to show parents, a Monet of ideas, a piece of art, and much, much more. For a much more in-depth lesson on Floorbooks and how they can benefit your practice, check our training dates to find training near you. Alternatively you can email to discuss bespoke training in your setting. Blog by Steven Watson with help from Senior Trainer Kate Hookham.  Do you have an idea for a blog or is there something you’d like discussed? Email  Share this blog on Facebook: Share  

  • 5 Brilliant Reasons to Send Your Child to Camp

    Throughout the year Mindstretchers offers a number of camps during school holidays to give children the opportunity to fully engage with nature for a week. From wood whittling and fire starting to tool tinkering and home-made cooking, awesome adventures and amazing memories will stay with children long after camp has ended. This award winning programme will be sure to give your child the best school holiday ever. The dates for our next camp are: Oct 17th 2016 – Oct 21st 2016. There are still places available! Camp is for anyone between the ages of 5 and 12 and is held at Fowlis Wester near Crieff. It is run between 9.30am and 3.00pm by our trainers with support from Auchlone Nature Kindergarten staff. Children are able to attend for as many or as few days as you wish. There may be a discount available for multiple bookings. Please get in touch to check the availability of individual days. Additional days can be booked for your child during camp depending on current bookings.   Studies have shown that outdoor play and learning is incredibly beneficial to a child’s upbringing. Not only is it physically and emotionally healthy, but it helps to develop key life skills.   Our camp is outside for the entire week, allowing your child to get as close to nature as possible. We believe that the best experiences and lessons are found in the natural world. Sending your child to camp will allow their relationship with nature to grow and flourish.       To help fit camp into your schedule we try to run camp during as many school holidays as possible. You can be certain that your children will spend their holiday having one of the greatest learning experiences possible while learning to love nature.   To fit it into your schedule and holiday plans, children are able to attend as many or as few days as they wish. We are flexible to your needs.       Camp activities are completely led by children, with staff providing support rather than directing. We give your child the tools and encouragement to explore at their own speed. This approach allows children to embrace risk assessment and management.   We wholeheartedly believe that the best way to encourage learning is to allow children to inspire themselves through nature play.   Whether your child wants to cook on an open fire, play in muddy water or learn how to weave wool; we will support them in their activity and learning.       For many, this will be the first time they cook their own food on an open fire or whittle wood for use in tool creation. These experiences will last a life time.   Camp allows children to experience nature like never before. By facilitating these new experiences we can be sure that children have an incredibly exciting and fun week while also improving their learning.   Camp makes for brilliant memories that they will share with their friends and families for weeks.       Attending will help your child develop self esteem and independence in a number of ways.   Camp attracts a diverse range of children from a variety of backgrounds and ages. They will undoubtedly make new friends throughout the week. It’s a fantastic opportunity to help develop social skills.   Campers are encouraged to play and learn at their own speed. They will leave with their head held high every day having had a blast and achieved a lot.   GENERAL INFORMATION: Time: 9.30am – 3.00pm Location: Fowlis Wester (10 minute drive from Crieff, Scotland) What you need to bring: Packed lunch, water bottle, waterproofs, spare clothes, warm clothes/sun hat and sun cream depending on time of year. For more details and bookings please email  

  • Engage, Reflect and Record! You need a Floorbook®.

      Floorbooks are a staple tool used in much of our work at Mindstretchers. A simple product, but highly effective. Floorbooks are a genuine record of the child’s thinking.Children's ideas and thoughts are recorded without re-framing or interpretation so that they are a genuine record of their thinking. "When children give a response to a question or contribute an idea that is far removed from the rest of the group thinking, the idea should be recorded as evidence of contribution, but not engagement." Claire Warden Floorbooks stimulate the child’s interest. Record open ended questions that are created in response to an interest from the children. The questions are posed as part of a conversation and are designed to stimulate thought rather than test knowledge. "The flow of reflective talk is critical to the process, to create a partnership of exploration and discovery. Question and answer sessions create a completely different atmosphere. Questions are almost philosophical, such as I wonder what would happen if..?" Claire Warden Floorbooks adapt to different learning styles.The adult can scribe for the children to release some from the pressure of secretarial skills during a small group experience; individuals can record their idea in a pictorial form, or writing on a thinking bubble. Floorbooks collate child-centre ideas.They should be used to analyse the starting points for learning that children are suggesting, rather than adults thinking up random "activities" for children to "do". Responsive planning should be at the root of learning. "If we are going to consult children then we should be prepared to change our thinking and actions as a result of it." Claire Warden Floorbooks are always availableJoint ownership should give children the right to revisit their thinking whenever they wish. "There has to be feedback loop to the children so that they know that the process of consultation is actually changing something. In practice this approach has lead to a child centred curriculum, that is based on evidence collated in a child centred way. A feature that many centres felt is being edged out by paperwork demands." Claire Warden Buy a Floorbook, Talking Tub or Talkaround Mat Floorbooks Online Courses Floorbooks Courses Share this blog on Facebook: Share  

  • Our Staff Appraisals 2016

      Share This week the children at Auchlone Nature Kindergarten have been discussing their teachers. We all sat down on our “Talkaround-Mat” and laid out photos of the Auchlone staff. The children began by discussing the different staff members and we recorded their words in our Floorbook. Finally, the children drew pictures of the staff. The children and staff found the experience engaging, rewarding and fun! Dialogue from the children. Annie's AppraisalFG - Cause she has a smiley face.DH - I like aunty neen cause she has long hair.MK - Caue she likes too eat everyone!DR - Eats all the children. Gail's AppraisalFK - She gives me wireDR - Cause she is funnyMK - Tie up materialMS - She looks after everyone Mona's AppraisalMK - She looks after the childrenDR - Cause shes goodFG - she helps me make my bookCP/MMP - Building. she plays in the sandpit with us! Jessica's AppraisalMMP/ DR - KindHC/ DH - GoodFG - She helps me make my stuff.CP - She's nice Dannie's Appraisal CP - She plays with Rosie and makes sure Rosie is okFG - She brings me in when I am upsetDR - She is niceCP - She looked after me when I hurt my kneeDH - She’s lovely Share this blog to Facebook: Share  

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