Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Derby Road trip - Day 2, Little Explorers, Broomfield.

Over 2 days we (myself, Julia & Marian - 2 nursery school principals) visited 4 different settings - 3 nursery schools & one private day nursery. To say I took a lot of of photos at each place is an understatement, hence each place needs it's own post and because we spent a whole day at Alfreton, it gets 3 posts!
Marian, Kate, me & Julia.
Little Explorers is a 54 place private day nursery set in the grounds of Broomfield Hall, Derby College's argricultural campus. The nursery has use of the amazing grounds for the children who attend the nursery & Kate was good enough to spend an hour or so showing us around the site, we were also lucky enough to have a fabulous child guide, Oliver, who gave us an idea of how the various areas are used by the children.

I was amazed at the sheer area the nursery has access to, even the little shaded wooded area just outside the building was a great site to be able to use on a daily basis & from the various resources dotted around this space it was obviously in use by the children. Kate, aims to gradually phase out all the plastic resources that the nursery have accumulated but has found that when set out in this wooded area they seem less bright & obtrusive than when in the smaller playground space. I always worry when settings decide to go down one particular route & throw out perfectly good resources just because they don't 'fit' in with the latest philosophy, I would much rather they, like Little Explorers, found another purpose or place for them. At the moment natural resources are all very much the thing to have in every setting, and I agree they are much more aesthetically pleasing but not at the expense of throwing out perfectly good plastic resources that still serve a purpose.
It was brilliant to see a child made obstacle course set up amongst the trees using tree stumps, logs & plastic crates from a well known shop!
This are is just outside the more traditional playground.
The nursery uses 2 main sites for their forest school experiences & both were well used & established sites but felt very different, the first was more manufactured with willow dens & concrete seating areas whereas the other site was much more natural & organic. The willow den in the former was one of the biggest I have even seen & I could just imagine being in there on a wet day! The nursery is lucky to have lots of students on hand to make seats out of logs etc. & it means that as the seats break down, they are replaced regularly.

Oliver, our child guide, was delighted to have visitors to show off his 'forest' to & he enjoyed telling us what might happen at each area - this is where we make dens, climb trees, go over the logs etc. and most endearingly he kept asking us 'You do like this a lot don't you?' and of course we did, the sites were amazing.
My favourite area was the real foresty bit that the older children use on a daily basis, there was lots of evidence of play - wooden discs with clay & twigs that had been Gruffalo cake, lots of dens & sticks arranged in piles. It was refreshing to see nettles & holly & prickly bushes, as sometimes sites created for use by schools can be too sanitised. I feel it is much better that children learn all about these natural hazards first hand than being shocked when they do encounter them. In my experience a child stung by nettles cries a lot less than one who have fallen hard onto tarmac.
The children at Little Explorers had been having fun using an old hand drill that one of the staff had brought in from home the day before & you can read their post about this activity here.

We spent a lovely hour or so wondering around this incredible site, it was so relaxed & as Kate said, all the staff & children are much happier in this natural environment. I can see that Kate & her team have lots of ideas for making even more use of the fabulous space around them & I honestly would say that they have a unique selling point for their day nursery with all the access to woodland. If I had any advice for them it would be to actually make the break away from their more traditional indoor spaces & go down the outdoor kindergarten route.

Thanks again to Peter for setting up this opportunity & to Kate & Oliver for their time & enthusiasm.

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