EYFS training day: Investigating the Natural World through Outdoor Learning

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Well, it was time to sit back, simply listen and absorb what was put in front of me as I was the one being inducted today (makes a change!).

The theme of today’s training was ‘Investigating the Natural World through Outdoor Learning’, which was confidently delivered by David Weatherly of David Weatherly Education (http://davidweatherlyeducation.co.uk/), Sheena Wright and Gyles Morris from Naturesbase Education in Wales (https://naturesbaseeducation.co.uk/).

David began by outlining the objectives and format of the day:

Colleagues will leave understanding:

  • The revised learning and development and assessment requirements for The Natural World ELG;
  • The importance of developing children’s interactions with the natural world from a young age;
  • How investigating the natural world in the EYFS can be the seedbed for establishing the key concepts, language and skills in science;
  • A range of different enquiry-focused approaches enabling children to investigate a variety of living things, natural materials and contrasting environments.

He then touched upon exploring nature in the nearby world, referring to the wonderful book, The Lost Words by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris, and ‘found words’.

Subsequently, Sheena focused upon the ELG: The Natural World, its corresponding links in the new Development Matters and typical early childhood experiences.

Next, it was Gyles’ turn to look at experiencing the natural world.  He considered the ELG: The Natural World and outdoor learning, initially posing the question ‘Why outdoors?’ and then projecting an extract from Learning Outside the Classroom’s manifesto, a quote from Richard Louv’s book, Last Child in the Woods, to explain nature deficit disorder, research findings relating to its positive impacts on health and well-being, a series of bullet points listing the recognised advantages of immersion in nature across the curriculum, as well as mention to awe and wonder and a sense of place = a sense of belonging.

Next, David concentrated on making sense of our ‘ecologically diverse world’.  He discussed science in the EYFS, progression in science from EYFS to Year 6, disciplinary knowledge, science second order concepts and scientific vocabulary and technical terms.  We were then introduced to Investigation 1: Exploring natural environments.  David highlighted how investigating different natural environments relates to both ELG: The Natural World and ELG: People, Culture and Communities.  He shared a number of relevant books with us, as well as case studies and assessment opportunities.  Gyles then set us three activities to do, all of which certainly heightened my senses and made me more aware of my immediate environment.  We were allocated time to make ourselves a drink and grab a snack before reporting back with our evidence.

Sheena took over to talk about mud!  We were shown some wonderful examples of mud, nature and outdoor kitchens and given guidance as to what needs to be considered.  There were some great pointers to real objects, how to reflect different family homes, natural materials, food ideas, themed role play, cooking/baking role play, a mud lab, foraged feasts, collections, an imagination station, a creation station, a potting table, growing herbs and plants, links with stories and online resources.

Our curiosity surrounding blobsters was soon allayed by Gyles.  He shared some incredible examples of nature art and introduced us to land art, such as that by Tim Pugh and Andy Goldsworthy (creating a piece of work – sculpture – in the style of a contemporary artist; higher-order art that adds rigour to provision).  It reminded me of the forests souls/spirits that the children (and teachers) create during the second half of our multi-schools and single school ‘amazing Amazon adventures’ (for example: https://stepintotheamazon.co.uk/2021/11/07/off-travelling-once-again/).  I must source a copy of Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert too.  Over lunch, we were challenged to construct our own piece of land art.  On our return, some incredible creations were shared by participants; a simple, yet impactful activity.

Afterwards, we delved into Investigation 2: Mapping my natural world – tracks, trails, routes and maps.  Its links with ELG: The Natural World and ELG: People, Culture and Communities were emphasised, in addition to discussing spatial thinking and awareness, the information that can be drawn from a simple map, disciplinary knowledge and what we want children to know and understand about maps by the end of EYFS.  Sheena talked about continuous provision, whilst Gyles demonstrated some ideas for outdoor learning, e.g. journey stick and a theme park for an ant (I loved the idea of having elastic bands pre-tied to the journey stick; one to trial with children in the near future).

Next, David revealed Investigation 3: Weather and Seasons and exemplified how this could be re-visited in both Key Stages 1 and 2 to ensure continuity and progression (as enquiries, such as ‘How does the weather affect our lives?’ and ‘How can we persuade people to join us in tackling the causes of global warming?’ at Key Stage 1 and ‘How is climate change affecting our world?’ at Key Stage 2).

David concluded the training with a profound quote from Sir David Attenborough:

‘If children don’t grow up knowing about nature and appreciating it, they won’t understand it.  And, if they don’t understand it, they won’t protect it.  And, if they don’t protect it, who will?’

Source: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=849819872557356

Many thanks for allowing me to be part of such a valuable and inspiring training day.  I look forward to being updated once more in late January!



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