|The outdoor play area|
I am relatively new to the whole concept of blogging - 8 months is nothing - one of the first people I ever came across has now been posting away for 3 years!! Juliet Robertson first mentioned the wonderful Cowgate Under 5's Centre in this post and I was immediately drawn to their outdoor area, as it seemed to be around the same size as my own playground but oh my goodness what they had achieved in a concrete space was amazing.
Fast forward a few months & I was heading to Edinburgh for a week for my holidays to take in the Fringe. I decided to contact Cowgate & see if I could go along for a visit (Juliet, again had a hand in this, as she had just posted a new note on Cowgate & reminded of it). I was delighted when Manager, Lynn McNair passed my request onto Lian Frizell and hey presto I was going to visit for myself.
The centre is off the Royal Mile in the centre of Edinburgh - it is also where the festival box office is sited so it is a very busy little passage way to make your way down. I went for a little recce the day before & the thing that alerted me to the centre was the giggles that I could hear from over the fence.
I was so excited to visit the next morning & Lian made me so welcome from the start. The whole ethos of the centre is so calm & relaxed. I have been lucky to visit early years settings in Sweden & Norway & this Scottish setting feels very like it should be in Scandinavia. I was struck by the respect that exists between staff & parents and staff & children. I was so happy to see that parents are encouraged to stay with their children as long as necessary, they even have a parents room in the centre. This is a lovely space where parents can go to while their child explores the setting, it means they are close to hand if they are needed.
I was buzzing with ideas after visiting here & would love for all those who work with me to get a chance to see it too. What struck me most was the atmosphere - calm, relaxed and quiet. I love my job but there are days when I am frazzled by 26 children & only 2 adults, I do find myself having to rush children through their stories or activities and I don't like it. I cannot imagine this happens very often, if ever, at Cowgate. I need to reassess how my class works & why we do things a certain way. There is a lot of trust between the children & the staff at Cowgate. An adult is not always watching each & every child, they are trusted to be on their own in an area. I also saw this in the Mindstretchers nature kindergarten in Auchlone, perhaps it is a Scottish thing? I also saw this in Norway where the teachers didn't feel they had to be in 'instructional mode' all the time - they allowed the children to be responsible for their own actions. In the area in the photos below the children are free to play unsupervised and move from room to room.
I start back to school in 2 weeks and I hope that I can bring a little bit of Cowgate's atmosphere to my class as I would love to provide such a calm, happy and relaxing learning space.