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Young children, the outdoors and nature
Young children, the outdoors and nature

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1.1 Exploring possibilities

In this section, you are going to look at the case of a reflective owner/manager, Sadie. She has been thinking about the outdoor provision for very young children and how she can get her team to think creatively about opportunities and possibilities. She calls a team meeting, which her staff are surprised to find takes place in the local park. As they walk around the park, they talk about the affordances they notice and how they think the children would respond to these affordances. Some people laugh as they see the mud and bring to mind certain children who they know would love that. Others are drawn to collecting twigs and stones, thinking of other children who they will share them with when they come to the setting on the next day.

When the staff arrive back at the setting, they are feeling relaxed and full of ideas. They are ready to make sketches of, and discuss, their favourite and most comfortable spaces, both indoor and outdoor. They talk about their favourite seasons and what it is about each season that they enjoy. They share with each other why certain spaces feel positive to them and how they can make themselves comfortable in areas that don’t attract them. By starting in this way, with opportunities rather than challenges, they are able to think creatively about how they might move forward with their nature engaging, nature enhancing pedagogy.

Activity 1 Exploring your possibilities

Timing: Allow 15 minutes to record (you will need to include a further 30 minutes for a walk outside)

You can have a go at this exercise and record it in your Learning journal. Find a natural environment close to your home that you can spend about 30 minutes in. Remember the definitions of natural environments in Session 6. You don’t need to go to the countryside; it could be spending time in a garden, a park or going for a walk where you know there will be some natural features. The important thing is that you will be able to engage with some aspects of nature. You may like to go on your own or you may like to go with a friend/colleague so that you can discuss your observations. It doesn’t matter which. As you are walking think about your responses to these questions:

  • What do you notice in nature?
  • What pulls your attention?
  • Which senses are you using?
  • Which spaces make you feel comfortable and give you a sense of wellbeing? Why?

When you return, you may like to make a sketch of the place(s) you visited and annotate it with your thoughts. Think also about your favourite season and why you have chosen that particular one. Think more generally about spaces you feel comfortable in and those you don’t. How could you make yourself feel comfortable in spaces that don’t attract you?

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