EYFS training day: Geography in the Early Years

CPD For Me

Once in a while, it is rather pleasant to be able to sit back, relax a little and be on the receiving end of some fantastic virtual CPD!  Today, it was the turn of David Weatherly and Sheena Wright to engage and inspire us.  David Weatherly is a School Improvement Adviser and an accomplished teacher at all stages of learning, as well as the author of the award winning Primary Connected History and Primary Connected Geography schemes published by Harper Collins.  Sheena Wright is an EYFS Education Consultant and a former local authority Early Years Lead Adviser with over twenty years of successful teaching experience across the full primary age range.

Today’s EYFS training was entitled ‘Geography in the Early Years’.  After registration and a formal welcome, David began by outlining the aim of the day and objectives.  He then focused at the purpose and value of studying geography, projecting a quote that had been extracted from the Rose Review back in 2008:

‘Geography enables children to understand the interaction of people and the physical and human environments in which they live – locally, regionally, nationally and globally – and to recognise how sustainability in the future can be achieved.’

Next, David proceeded to consider the world to an EYFS child, bringing awe and wonder into your curriculum, geographical concepts: the centrality of PLACE, geographical second-order concepts, geography in Development Matters (Reception-aged children) and geography: substantive concepts, including some time in ‘break out rooms’ for reflection.  He also shared a quote from Tim Jenner, HMI Subject Lead for Ofsted:

‘It was also very exciting on these visits to see the progress some schools have made in thinking about securing pupils’ knowledge of important substantive concepts … even at a very young age.’

David’s final message to take away from the opening session about geography in the EYFS  was LITTLE; LOTS; LOTS – a LITTLE knowledge building; LOTS of concept formulation and LOTS of language acquisition.  He reinforced that the characteristics of effective teaching and learning underpin the development of geographical thinking through playing and exploring, active learning and creating and thinking critically.

David talked us through Investigation 1: Out and about, showcasing the potential of Google Earth Pro (https://www.google.com/intl/en_uk/earth/versions/), Google Street View (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.google.android.street&hl=en_GB&gl=US), Bing maps (https://www.bing.com/maps), mat maps and floor maps.  Whilst I was familiar with these applications/resources, some teachers were not and so they picked up some quick, easy and cost-effective ideas to enhance their teaching and pupils’ learning.  David emphasised what working in the EYFS as a young geographer through a pedagogy of enquiry really looks like.

David then handed over to Sheena.  She discussed the rationale for the EYFS reforms, statutory framework for the EYFS, the seven areas of learning and development, the new educational programme for Understanding the World, the new Early Learning Goals (ELGs) for Understanding the World, focusing on the Early Learning Goals ‘People, culture and communities’ and ‘The natural world’ in particular, considerations for EYFS reforms and what EYFS teachers will need and thoughts from teachers on changes to Understanding the World.

We paused for a short break before reconvening to explore how a young geographer’s mind develops, geographical rigour, progress in geography from EYFS to Year 6, referring to the progression of skills sheet, contemplation about what these skills may look like in EYFS, the implications for whole school geography provision and geography in the Early Years.  David introduced us to Investigation 2, named Stories: Gateways to geography, where we considered the importance of stories, geography in the statutory framework (educational programme) and reviewing stories.  Both David and Sheena had collated some fantastic examples of stories with huge geography potential.  Although I had used a few of these before (even at Key Stage 1 and beyond), there were plenty of new books that I wished to delve into.  David also mentioned vocabulary, building from the basic to appropriate to specialised, and challenged us all to a task, which we completed via the chat feed.

Sheena then ‘zoomed in’ on Development Matters, the non-statutory curriculum guidance for the EYFS, displaying what nursery-aged children and those in Reception will be learning to do and their examples of how to support this.  She talked about supporting child-initiated learning – continuous provision, as well as giving a mention to Birth to 5 Matters.  The latter document was produced by the Early Years Coalition and is much lengthier than Development Matters, which was published by the DfE; Sheena advised looking at Development Matters first and then dipping into Birth to 5 Matters when wishing to gain further insight into a particular aspect.

Afterwards, David took us through Investigation 3: A place called home.  In conjunction with this, he linked to Gap Minder’s Dollar Street (https://www.gapminder.org/dollar-street), a fascinating source of 30 000 copyright-free images of 264 families in 50 countries throughout the world.  This is certainly a website that I need to explore at a later date!  I was also introduced to a book that I had not come across before; A Good Trade by Alma Fullerton and illustrated by Karen Patkau.  This prompted discussion around the pertinent themes of diversity and challenging preconceptions too.

Following a slighter longer break for lunch, we returned for the final session.  Google Earth Pro’s scope was, once again, highlighted as David shared another enquiry, Investigation 4: The United Kingdom, with us.

David and Sheena brought the training to a close with a summary of the key changes of EYFS reform, teachers’ thoughts on the new expectations of Understanding the World, considerations for EYFS teachers, considerations for Subject Leaders and SLT, in addition to a reference to assessment (What will tracking of progress towards the ELG in the summer term look like?).

A big thank you to David and Sheena for yet another hugely informative and inspiring day.  I look forward to sharing some of my newly acquired knowledge and understanding with those who attend our next virtual Primary Humanities Network meeting in June, as well as at other CPD events that I steer.


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