Thursday, 17 September 2015

Taking life at a snail's pace!

So here we are 3 weeks into a new school year and most of the 26 children are well settled and thoroughly enjoying their time at nursery. They are in 2 small groups of 14 and 12 and tomorrow they go together to form one class for the first time. 
As there are just the two of us at most times, staff wise, this year, we have quickly realised that we are going to need to slow things down and not get too stressed if we don't manage to achieve all that we have planned for each day.
Sometimes we forget how interesting the everyday is to young children and this age group is definitely the best for making me stop to appreciate what we often rush past on a daily basis. So today, I found myself spending some time watching spiders spin their webs in the trees up in Bear Woods with the first group and then a small snail crawling up the shed with the second group.

At times like this I am reminded that the age of 3 and 4 is not just a stage to be rushed through to the next, these children have the right to experience everything at their pace and as their interest is piqued, to explore topics freely. So, that is our hope for the next few weeks and months as we all get to know each other better and learn how to cope in a larger group and find our place together - we will stop to look at the spiders, smell the flowers and watch the snails!

Friday, 11 September 2015

Bear Woods has become a real woods!!

The joy of running on ahead up to red circle!
We had our first visit to Bear Woods this morning and the children had been counting the sleeps until this momentous event! This little space has really come into it's own in the last few months, some the Alder trees are now about 12 foot high and we can really begin to see what shape the space will take in the next few years as the trees fill out and become sturdy enough to climb.
The space when it was first fenced off in 2013.
The class of 26 are still in two separate groups of 14 and 12 for a short 2 hour session each day so it meant we had lots of time to help get them ready for the visit by getting on their wellies and 'rain gear'. We have perfected a good system where we call a child at a time to hep them get dressed whilst the others play about in the playground and then whenever everyone is dressed we head off.
As this was their first visit, they had lots of new instructions - to walk on the footpath outside the nursery and to let a grown up go first and that grown ups are the only ones who open any gates in nursery however the best part of going to Bear Woods is that once we are around the corner from the school car park we can let the children run ahead up the hill to Bear Woods - we have a red circle on the gate that they must wait at for the rest of the class.
Once inside we had snack sitting on the new seats Cahal, one of the caretakers made over the summer. We did find they were a little too high and sloped & some of the children keep slipping down the seats like dominoes! However, Cahal has assured me it's no problem for him to adjust the height of them.
Our new seating that just needs a little tweak!
After snack the children were free to explore the site and even in the 2 month period since we were last there in June, it was amazing how much the space has filled in. The trees are much bushier and some provide gorgeous red leaves and berries - the children were told not to eat the berries but they enjoyed incorporating them into their play in the simple 'mud kitchen'.
How magical must this space appear to a 3 or 4 year old!
They found the slope a challenge and a lot of them were saying they had sore legs after running up and down the slope a few times. They enjoyed climbing up using the rope and then rolling down again - this is a skill they will develop over the year as today most rolled across rather down!
On the way back down again, the children had no problem accepting that a grown up would walk first as they were heading back towards the school car park. They got back to nursery just in time to get their rain gear off watch a short DVD and then it was time to go home.
I am truly grateful that this little space was planted and fenced off for the nursery children to enjoy year after year.

Thursday, 10 September 2015

8 days in, what skills have we learned?

An uncommon sight on the first day!
So after a lovely summer break I am back at school with 26 new children in the class. They have been at school for 8 days and are well settled into their two groups of 14 and 12, they have made some new friends, learned lots of new skills and are starting to trust us, the nursery staff more and more each day.
From the 3rd day we have kept the same routine - outdoor play, indoor play, story and home  - over the two hour period they are in nursery. As the days pass we have added more 'tasks' into the routine, like snack, tidy-up, signing in and out of class and choosing library books. Tomorrow we go on our first visit to Bear Woods and the children have been counting the sleeps to this momentous occasion all week. Many of the class have older brothers and sisters who have already told them all about nursery and Bear Woods, this has made our jobs easier!
These 26 children are playing really well together, already deploying the sand timers to ensure fair play and constantly amaze us at how much they can cope with in this new environment. We, as adults, who return to this job year after year, can forget how it is all new to the children and that they need time to learn the routine and get to grips with all the new language and rules. On the second day we had had the painting easel out, I was gently reminding a child that they needed to get their name to put on their picture, when they looked at me and holding out their apron, said 'But I have the name on' - which showed me that I had been giving too many instructions without checking that they actually understood the vocabulary I was using.
This is where the names are for all the artwork.
Today I was so impressed when all of the 25 children in school today were able to take their library book bag and walk through the classroom from the playground to hang it up on their coat peg - this is quite a feat and one that hasn't been done on the first day it's been introduced for a long time!
All the book bags hanging up on the correct pegs!

Friday, 4 September 2015

Nature and seasons.

The willow in summer.
One of the things I think most new school playgrounds do not take into consideration is providing planting that allows children to be surrounded by nature and to see seasonal changes. If I am totally honest, it is not something I consciously thought about when we were getting ready to move into our new space 9 years ago. We put a bush in a tyre in the middle of the playground without even knowing that it was deciduous! 
This bush allows the children to see our 4 very distinct seasons.
The nursery moved from one end of the school grounds to another and we suddenly gained lots of trees that were in the gardens of the nearby houses & thereby had a ready supply of leaves in Autumn to incorporate into our play. Now, the children get to see birds nests in the trees in Winter and Spring before the leaves fill in on the trees and the willow dens provide shelter in Spring and Summer.
This big tree is full of nests, we can hear the birds now but can't see them.

The willow is starting to provide great cover along the fence.
One Spring we planted some willow along the fence in the nursery and it is amazing to see how well it has grown and provides more shelter from the wind as well as making a lovely noise.
I love that Bear Woods allows the children to see seasonal changes first hand, from the red autumnal leaves to the lush green summer foliage with the bare stark stick like trees in Winter.
If it is at all possible, I would suggest schools seek advice from someone who knows about trees or planting to help enhance their grounds.