Saturday, 28 June 2014

Thanks Kevin!

Almost 3 years ago I started a Facebook page to accompany this blog, which was around 8 months old at that time - when I say started I really should say 'was forced to'! A colleague of mine threatened to block me from his newsfeed if I didn't stop posting school stuff over the summer holidays!

I had just discovered Pinterest & was an avid follower of Let the Children Play & Irresistible Ideas for Play Based Learning & was seeing so many great ideas almost hourly that I just had to share them with the world. However, I can see that not every teacher wants to be reminded of work in the middle of their holidays, so when Kevin made his threat I realised that a page dedicated to sharing good ideas from the around the blogosphere was the solution.

Since that day in August 2011 more than 10,000 people have liked the page & many of those are regularily active on the page. I have made many contacts across the world as well as closer to home. Thanks to the page several local teachers have got in contact & come to visit my nursery to observe how we 'do' outdoor play in the setting. My school also hopes to take part in a 3 year project with an Icelandic school that all came about through an exchange on the page between myself & Unnur, one of the teachers in the school.

So, even though he may not have realised it, Kevin did me a huge favour that day when he got so fed up with my enthusiasm and here is to another 3 years, who knows where this whole thing will take me!

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Last trip of the year - An Creagán.

This was a perfect end of year trip and a great way to spend the last day outdoors before the summer holidays begin on Friday. This was our 3rd visit to The Wild Woods & by now the children were confident about what route to take to the Wild Woods - they know they can run on ahead but must stop at the gate. After leaving their lunches at the fire circle, they all just spread off around the site to explore their favourite parts. 
There was a lovely surprise for us all today when we came across a tea party set up amongst some of the trees. One child decided that this had to be where the tooth fairy stopped off for a refreshing cup of tea when out collecting teeth! The children spent a long time here setting & unsetting the table & inviting friends to join them. (This space had been set up for a recent Mad Hatter's Tea Party)
Can you spot the Bottle Baby nestled in the grass?
Due to the recent hot weather the place was looking very lush & green but this made it hard to find any frogs or newts as they were so densely hidden in the folliage. There was lots of new art work dotted around the Wild Woods for us to enjoy too & some of the children had a ball painting trees, stones & tractor tyres - many painted themselves too, so apologies for those parents who have white poloshirts to wash covered with black paint!
Art work by Emily McFarland
After lunch the children enjoyed toasting giant marshmallows on the fire, these kept them chewing for about 10-15 minutes! 
Sarah, our amazing NVQ student & Peter, the education officer at An Creagán 'testing' the marshmallows!
We just had time for a short spell in the play park before heading back to school. I can't think of a more perfect place to have visited for our end of year trip.

Friday, 20 June 2014

Outdoor Play Party - summer holidays begin!

This is the last week of school for me & my class are getting ready to move onto 'big school', the majority are just transferring to P.1 within the same school but a couple are moving on to completely different schools.

In the last few weeks, it is a bittersweet time for me as their teacher, they are at their most settled, we are all totally comfortable with each other & their play is at a great level. Each day as I sit & observe them interacting with each other & using every inch of the playground, it is a little sad to think that they are almost ready to move on & become another teacher's class.

This week we had a couple of parties for those who are 5 in the summer & have 3 more in the last week. We went on a trip to Sperrinview to their wonderful sensory garden & many of the parents joined us. They enjoyed seeing where their children had played all year & it was lovely to see the children & parents & grandparents spread all over this amazing space.
We have our final trip of the year to An Creagán on Wednesday & then Graduation on Friday & that's another school year over. I can't believe this is my 13th end of year celebrations at Windmill.
The Bottle Babies in their tyre homes before they head off to pastures new!
There is a wooden wobbly bridge at Sperrinview & this week some children decided to recreate their own version with some Bottle Babies. They wedged some between tyres & also some in the tyres & enjoyed trying to walk on them while they had some 'give' to allow them sensation of movement!
It looks like so much fun - I only wish they could take my weight!

They have also all got to pick a Bottle Baby to take home with them next week & I like to think the Bottle Baby revolution is gaining momentum as 27 more go off into the wider world!
Thanks again to all those who took the time to link up an outdoor post in the last OPP, the one I am featuring this time is from Kids in the Garden - they had a fab afternoon where their street was closed off to traffic & the familes came out to play & socialise together. This was part of a project called The Big Lunch organised by The Eden project. I just love this pictures of the car free street covered with chalk drawings.

  • Any kind of children's outdoor play-related posts are welcome!
  • We'd appreciate it if you included a link back to this post (either in your post or sidebar) to help us spread the word about the importance (and fun!) of outdoor play! In return, we'll gladly further share your post on FacebookTwitterPinterestPlease feel free to grab the Outdoor Play Party button from the sidebar and/or include a text link back. Please note that by contributing you are giving permission for an image and link to your post to be republished if featured.(If you have been featured, please feel free to grab the 'featured' button from the sidebar.) Share your ideas for outdoor play activities with us every other week!

Thursday, 12 June 2014

A snapshot of our week outdoors.

Here is a little glimpse into how the week was spent outdoors at Windmill this week.
All the dungarees hanging up to dry after a morning in the mud kitchen & Bear Woods.
The weather has been really warm & sunny - very unusual for us to have more than 2 days of this kind of weather in a row, so we have made the most of it by spending as much time outside as possible. 

This week the class had their final visit to Bear Woods, they were a little sad to realise they will never be back in this space to play again but are also very excited about the move to 'big school' & the bigger playspace.
A lovely sunny morning for our last visit to Bear Woods.
We also discovered that lots of acorns had been dropped into an old cable reel on our forest area & have actually managed to grow into Oak saplings - the children have spent all week fishing the saplings out of the tiny hole at the top of the reel & the older children are going to plant them during their gardening club.
Several oak saplings have managed to grow out of an old sponge that had fallen inside the cable reel!
Inspiried by a Cosy poster entitled 'Free Play for Free', the children wanted to make a den with some of the long sticks, they did try this but soon discovered they'd rather have a tripod to hang the cooking pot off, so they could replicate our weekly fire. They have been cooking cakes & hot chocolate on this 'fire' all week.
The willow got a trim at the top this week too & the trimmings were great for whittling & playing with!
And as always the Bottle Babies played a central role in play - this time they served as drinks in a lemonade shop.
We only have 2 weeks of nursery left for this class & have so many events - parties, trips & visits & Graduation - it is going to be a busy last few weeks.

Friday, 6 June 2014

Outdoor Play Party - an international friendship!

This weeks Outdoor Play Party is a guest post from Unnur Henrys a colleague & friend from Iceland:
This post is going to be about a friendship thanks to Facebook and social media.
It all started with a comment I made on a wall to someone I knew nothing about. I got a reply very quickly from a woman called Kierna Corr, asking me if I was interested in a partnership in a Comenius project between few countries. After getting the permission from my principal we went ahead and started talking on FB about outdoor teaching, sharing ideas, and our shared passions for our work.
Not long after that, Kierna Corr had the chance to come and see me in Iceland through a project organised by Fafu. Fafu had compiled a team of 30 fun people, from across England, Ireland and America. They all had the same passion for outdoors as we do. One of them was the one and only Martin Besford that has inspired us both with his work and passion for his Outdoor pre-school at Highway Farm. We hit it off and became good friends, messaging and talking and sharing good practice. 
Staff & children play together & the tyre walk created by the adults.
The amazing boat 'Highway' created by the fab Highway Farm Team.
I was lucky enough to get to visit Highway Farm in December last year with few of my colleagues. It took a bit of organising but was the second link in strengthening our friendship further. It is indescribable what I felt about the Farm, wow wow it is an amazing place. Martin and I continued to communicate and he wanted to bring his whole team to Iceland, to share good practice, deliver some training and help us build some outdoor spaces. So I went ahead and helped them to organize the trip.
Lucky for us in Stekkjaras, the one and only Andy Byles (a really good friend of Highway Farm) came with them and he and the Highway Farm team came up with a great mud kitchen, a boat in the sand pit, called Highway, some dens and lots of great ideas for us to use in our outdoor space. On the second day we got a quick glance into how their team works, when they had a short workshop for all the staff. We made some floating natural boats to take outside to play with in the first half of the workshop and then we got to go outside and use it with all the kids around. They found it quite strange to see the teachers play together without them! After a quick refreshment of coffee, milk and a biscuit all the kids, all the teachers at Stekkjaras and all the Highway farm team went out to play together.
Some of the amazing new additions to the playground.
The incredible mud kitchen created by Martin & the Highway Farm Team.

 And wow wow wow the place was buzzing with energy and laughter, some water being splashed, some more dens being built and everybody having so much fun. The other amazing thing, is the ripple effect that this visit has had, is now beginning to show, other local settings inspired to start transforming their spaces. Hopefully this is just the start of isnpiration that joining together can have. If we all share and pool skills and resources, fantastic things can happen and magic can do its work.
I know that I have made friends for life with these like minded people, Martin Besford and the staff at Highway farm and Kierna Corr. Thank you so much, all of you for the inspiring talks, help and kind words when needed.
I am already planning my next trip to Highway Farm to work as an extra pair of hands and see the many changes since my last visit in December. I am told a joint project at Highway Farm is in the air........

Unnur Henrys
Leikskolinn Stekkjaras 

Once again, thanks to all who linked up & supported the last Outdoor Play Party, my featured post from the last linky is from Rain or Shine Mama on how her grandparents got her hooked on nature.
  • Any kind of children's outdoor play-related posts are welcome!
  • We'd appreciate it if you included a link back to this post (either in your post or sidebar) to help us spread the word about the importance (and fun!) of outdoor play! In return, we'll gladly further share your post on FacebookTwitterPinterestPlease feel free to grab the Outdoor Play Party button from the sidebar and/or include a text link back. Please note that by contributing you are giving permission for an image and link to your post to be republished if featured.(If you have been featured, please feel free to grab the 'featured' button from the sidebar.) Share your ideas for outdoor play activities with us every other week!

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Tab Toob.

This is a review post for the Tab Toob iPad case & strap set, I was lucky enough to get my hands on!
It has a removable protective screen pad.
In January my school got iPads - one for every teacher & a set for each class in Key Stage 2 to be shared with the classes in Key Stage 1 & Foundation Stage. My nursery class were fortunate to get 3, one myself & the 2 nursery assistants. iTeach UK who have been providing training for all staff in the past 6 months gave the nursery 3 tough cases for our iPads. 

I can't even blame the children, it was me who managed to break 2 of them while trying to get the cover back off to clean under the screen protector. (I now know how to actually get them off thanks to a You Tube video).

When I broke the 2nd one, I was lamenting about it on Facebook when a fellow blogger & friend said she had a Tab Toob to test but as she had an iPad mini it was no good to her. The lovely Juliet from Creative Star Learning Company, subsequently posted her sample Tab Toob over to me from Scotland.
First off it is so much lighter than the other cases normally promoted for use with the early years or special needs. I had found the nursery children couldn't hold the iPad with the tougher plastic case on it without help, so it ruled out letting them use it independently to take photos. More importantly it is so tactile as it is spongy & round, it feels like smooth polystyrene but the biggest advantage it has over other cases is that you can get a carry strap to attach so you can have it to hand. No more carrying it about in a backpack or under my arm or struggling to find somewhere to stash it when outdoors, so that it was close to hand if needed for videoing etc.
On hand when we are out in the playground within easy reach when needed.
On hand when out & about on trips too.
The tougher cases are great for indoors sedentary use but when out & about the Tab Toob wins hands down for me.
The fact you have your hands free & yet have the iPad to hand is a big bonus
The strap can also go across your body & is secured by toggles that tighten when it is in place. I will definitely be buying another Tab Toob so that 2 of us can always have an iPad to hand no matter where we are.