Monday, 13 January 2014

The 2 inevitable questions.

Whenever other practitioners come to visit our nursery to see how we 'do' outdoor play everyday, there are always 2 questions they ask.
"How do you convince staff to go outside no matter what the weather?" and "What do you say to parents who tell you they want their child to stay inside because they aren't well enough to go outside?" 
Firstly it's not about convincing staff to go outside - it's really not an option! We provide suitable clothing for all staff (and students or visitors if need be) and as we start outside every day it's not up for discussion, it just happens. It is usually just 2 of us but some years we have extra staff & they soon see the advantages to going outside after a few days - honestly!
Outside but under the covered area.
The 2nd question amuses me because I haven't heard it in over 7 years now. I used to hear it a lot, especially when we did free flow play and the children had the option to be in or out. However once we started all going out or in at the same time it isn't an option either. How can I possible have 1 staff member inside with 1 child while another is outside with the other 25-26 children? More importantly when I did have a request to keep a child inside due to sickness I began to reply that if they were not well enough to go outside, they were not well enough to be in school. And that is the crux of the issue - if a child is honestly not well enough to be outside, properly wrapped up for an hour, then they shouldn't be in school anyway. Why would it be healthier for that child to be inside in a warm environment with all the other germs etc. circulating in the classroom?

But it all ultimately comes down to communication again, I take time to stress to parents when they first visit the school that we go outside everyday no matter what and again if they are successful in their application it is stressed at the introduction evening in the June prior to their child starting with us. I make it very clear that if their child is sick they should not be at school & that we will not be keeping any children inside because they are not well. As I said earlier, in the past 7 years no parent has even ever said this to me.
After a while being out  in the rain seems quite natural to everyone!
Then last week I came across this post from The Pine Project on why it is important that children are outside even on the coldest days. If you haven't already seen it please do click on the link to read this great article.

Last week we had a leader from a neighbouring playgroup come to visit to see how we 'do' outdoor play. She had requested to come on a Friday when she heard that we would be outdoors for at least 2.5 hours regardless of the weather. Yes, she inevitable asked those 2 questions but she also 'got' why we go outside no matter what. She could see that the children weren't in the least bit concerned by the rain or cold. We are very lucky to have a covered area where the children can get changed into their wellies & rain gear & play at a variety of activities, including snack) without choosing to go out in the rain etc. So as the morning unfolded Janice could see some getting on their wellies to go in the sand, others getting on the rain gear to play with the water (from the water butt) and go down the wet slide, explore the forest area of the playground and play with the pipes & balls that were out.
Then as we lit the fire most of the class got on their rain gear to sit around it & enjoy the apples we cooked on it, only 1 child chose not to do this but as he was still outside just under the cover this is perfectly OK.
Generally we find that after 2 weeks of going outside both the adults & children just accept it & more importantly so do the parents. 

4 comments:

  1. I think you're right that so much of this comes down to straight communication and making sure everybody has the same expectations. In my experience, the forest schools in Scandinavia deal with those issues the same way, i.e. all parents know that they go outside every day regardless of weather, so the kids are dressed accordingly. The parents also know that if the child is not well enough to be outside he/she needs to stay home.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So true Linda, I think that those in Scandinavia lead the way on outdoor practice.

      Delete
  2. You know I agree with you, so pleased to see you persuading all around you too

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Fiona, isn't it good to know there are more of us about!!

      Delete