Monday, 19 May 2014

Coate Water Park

I was asked to run an outdoor session for HND students at New College in Swindon. It was a fabulously sunny day and their tutor Dawn had suggested that we walk to Coate Water Park Now often when we're taking students outside (even though they're doing childcare courses!) we get a fair amount of 'Oh, I hate walking' or 'I don't like mud' or 'Uggghh they'll be bugs and stuff' It never ceases to amaze me that these are people that want to work with children HOWEVER by the time they've been out for a couple of hours they are pretty much converted to the wonders of nature and keen to share that when they go back to their placements.

Coate Water Park is a good half hour walk from college so I packed one back pack and took a tarpaulin and off we went. I wanted to show that you can do an awful lot outside with minimal kit. Some of the students knew the park and suggested we walk round to the right past the high,, but sadly disused concrete diving board. It was a lovely walk with the water on our left and we strolled past beech trees with many hearts carved by loved up Swindon couples, grassy areas, over wooden bridges and round to the other side where we found some dry ground with bluebells and ferns.

We had a discussion about Forest Schools (FS) and if any of their placements used woodland,, talked about 'watered down' FS where people go onto the school field or stay in the pre-school garden but decided that if people were taking children outside then that was a good thing whatever it was called. I suggested they look at the Forest School Association website for the FS principles and more information.

We also talked about Mud Kitchens and children having access to real natural materials and at that point I asked the students to split into groups and make some mud food. This gave them a chance to explore the area and me a chance to flip out the tarp and organise a few other things.

Spaghetti and meat balls!

Salad with mushrooms - prompted a discussion on what to pick and how you would explain that to children

Sausage, peas, broccoli and gravy
We also had some fabulous mud puddings and no one minded getting messy. We'd talked about FS raising confidence and self esteem and I'd asked the girls to talk to each other in a positive way throughout the session and they were brilliant, really encouraging each other and swapping ideas. One group made up a Going on a Bug Hunt game based on Bear Hunt. They performed this and if I can work out how I'll upload the video.

They stayed in groups and we covered a lot of activities in a short space of time, it's always a bit of a whizz though but I think people take something away with them which gives them confidence to try new things with the children that they work with. I showed them the Manifesto for the Early Years; Putting Children First published in March this year. Their assignment at the moment is to compare different approaches to the curriculum and I thought that this document was worth reading.

Making wands

This group was making things with a stick and came up with a broomstick fixed with a hair bobble.  This led to the wands (above) as we had a Harry Potter moment!

Is it maths, art, social? Or just fun?

Words about the session. Check out all those wands!

We could have stayed there all day it was a wonderful spot but all too soon we had to pack up and head back. The girls stopped for a quick play on the park - explaining to the parents of the toddlers that they were Childcare Students! Luckily the ice-cream kiosk was open so we had one of those as we walked back to college.

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