Jan White Natural Play

Natural Play, Natural Growth, in the Early Years


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Mudlark Find *16: ‘Exploring Play’ free online course from Sheffield University

Playful adults know the importance of play in children's lives

Playful adults know the importance of play in children’s lives

Mudlark Find Number 16 is a quick heads-up to let you know about a new MOOC (don’t ask me what that stands for) from the Education Department of the University of Sheffield.  ‘Exploring Play: the importance of play in everyday life’ will be launched on 29th September 2014.  Take a look at the trailer at the futurelearn.com website.

With the subtitle ‘understanding the nature and value of play through the course of our lives, across cultures and communities’, and covering such things as the history of play, outdoor play spaces in towns, cities and parks, play as the subject of serious study, and current debates about how the nature of play changes, it looks like a wide-ranging and valuable addition to our current need to argue the case for play in learning in childhood.

Applications are currently open (until end September) for the two Masters modules I tutor at the Centre for Research in Early Childhood (CREC) in Birmingham. Learning Outdoors in Early Childhood and Children’s Physical Development from Birth to Seven (the latter run in collaboration with paediatric physiotherapist Sue Heron of Tatty Bumpkins) are both Post Graduate Certificates (double modules carrying 60 credits at level 7) and contribute towards an MA in Education (Early Years).  Both courses start mid-October – contact CREC for further information and dates for the 2014-15 courses.

Thanks to Marc Verkamp, of Veldwerk, Netherlands for the image, taken (by me) on an international study visit at Auchlone Nature Kindergarten, Scotland in April 2013

With this section of my website, I share some of the many wonderful treasures I dig up while researching and supporting outdoor play for children from birth to seven. I hope they inspire you too, and help you to create motivational, meaningful and satisfying outdoor play experiences for all the children you work with.


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Mudlark Finds *15: Love Trees Love Woods Campaign

Everybody loves being in a wood

Everybody loves being in a wood

Mudlark Finds Number 15 is a collaboration between the Forest School Association and Sylva for a new crowd-sourcing campaign to bring more children and more woodlands together through play across the UK.  The aim is to raise £30,000 to make available more woodlands, up-skill more enthusiastic adults, and provide many more play-filled opportunities for children, in an environment that meets their deep human need to interact with and bond with nature.

I’ve just made a small contribution – all it takes is lots and lots of small actions to build into something quite significant. Watch the film describing the work and if you’d like to contribute, you can do so on this site; and if you know of anyone else who might want to, please point them in this direction. There is plenty of material here to help make the case to those as yet unfamiliar with Forest School.

The Forest School Association (FSA) is also launching a map-search and database of FSA verified qualified practitioners to help support the principle that FS is run by qualified L3 practitioners, whilst giving a clear message that FS qualification is absolutely not necessary to take children outside! (my emphasis) “Forest School is a specialised learning approach that sits within and compliments the wider context of outdoor and woodland education.” http://www.forestschoolassociation.org/what-is-forest-school/

I’ll be keen to pick this up with the FSA to unravel some of the concerns we in the on-site outdoor play support sector have about the often-perceived ‘requirement’ for further qualification that goes beyond providing the confidence needed for working in off-site (or even on-site) natural environments.

Hanging out barefoot in beautiful woods - what could be better for children's wellbeing?

Hanging out barefoot in beautiful woods – what could be better for children’s wellbeing?

Thanks to my great friend Erin Kenny for the images of children’s everyday play in Cedarsong Forest Kindergarten, on Vashon Island, Washington State, USA, which I visited in July 2012.  Erin has written about Cedarsong in Forest Kindergartens: The Cedarsong Way, in which shares her own journey of learning about what it actually means to provide an immersive preschool experience in an outdoor woodland habitat, and the realities of being authentically in the outdoors (I wrote the forward for her book).  You can find the book on Amazon.com (but not yet on amazon.co.uk).

With this section of my website, I share some of the many wonderful treasures I dig up while researching and supporting outdoor play for children from birth to seven. I hope they inspire you too, and help you to create motivational, meaningful and satisfying outdoor play experiences for all the children you work with.


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Mudlark Finds *11: Touch A Butterfly plus Butterfly Conservation offer

Touch a butterfly

Mudlark Find Number 11 is a Touch A Butterfly: wildlife gardening with kids.  It’s a very nice book to hold and to read, full of colour images that, although from a North American context and therefore showing different species to our own, really make you want to entice and welcome these creatures to come and share your outdoors with your children.

The book has sections on: Uncovering your habitat’s potential for wildlife; Setting the stage for wildlife; Welcoming butterflies, bees, bats, dragonflies and toads; Bringing in the birds and (importantly) A place for people – being part of your wildlife garden.

With chapters on Gardening in the rain – with suggestions for ‘rain walks’, ‘fairy’s washing walks’ and ‘making room for mud’ – and The layer cake of life, I very much liked the language used and the many expressions of affinity with nature and its processes.  So it gets a recommend from me.

Butterfly Conservation, a British charity dedicated to protecting butterflies, moths and our environment, are currently updating their family membership by including new items in the welcome pack and adding a more family friendly area to their website, including outdoor activities. They are also going to be including a number of items for children in their online shop (http://butterfly-conservation.myshopify.com/).

To promote this they are currently offering 25% off family membership (from the 6th May till the 31st May with a code). They will also be running a competition for children to design a T-shirt with a butterfly, moth or caterpillar theme, with the winning designer getting a copy of their T-shirt and it then being sold in their online shop!  Family membership might be a great way for early years settings to get things going in their own provision – and perhaps the charity will consider an early years support pack as their next focus for development.

With this section of my website, I share some of the many wonderful treasures I dig up while researching and supporting outdoor play for children from birth to seven. I hope they inspire you too, and help you to create motivational, meaningful and satisfying outdoor play experiences for all the children you work with.

Mudlarking is the ancient practice of digging in the mud of the Thames to find treasures.  It still goes on today, uncovering and recovering some amazing artefacts from the life of London city through the centuries.  Click on this link for more information about mudlarking.


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Mudlark Finds *6: Blossom Buddies

blossom buddies

Mudlark Find Number 6 is a book I’m adding to my Fairies collection.  Found in the nursery classroom of my good friend and inspirational teacher, Vanessa Lloyd, now of St Asaph VP Infant school in North Wales, Blossom Buddies: a garden variety makes me smile.

Inspired by her 3 year-old son’s love of being outside, Elsa Mora describes how she “went out with a basket and collected some natural elements like petals, branches, leaves… and started composing silly characters with them in my studio.  Since they were so fragile I decided to take some photos so I could look at them later, and that was the beginning of the series of flower characters in this book…  I hope that the pages in this book bring a smile to your face and also make you think that it is important to slow down sometimes and enjoy the simple things that life and nature have to offer us every day.”

The petal, twig and leaf characters on each page look like a cross between fairies and aliens, and also make you appreciate the complexity and detail of flower parts.  The book itself has around 140 individual flower characters, but you can also purchase a calendar with twelve of the best on a bigger scale (I’ve taken mine apart and laminated each page for use outdoors) and a delightful set of notelets called Ecobuddies (unfortunately only of one of the petal fairies) that would go down well in an outdoor writing kit.

With this section of my website, I share some of the many wonderful treasures I dig up while researching and supporting outdoor play for children from birth to seven. I hope they inspire you too, and help you to create motivational, meaningful and satisfying outdoor play experiences for all the children you work with.

Mudlarking is the ancient practice of digging in the mud of the Thames to find treasures.  It still goes on today, uncovering and recovering some amazing artefacts from the life of London city through the centuries.  Click on this link for more information about mudlarking.

images
Futurelab – Projects Archive – Mudlarking in Deptford


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Mudlark Finds *5: Woodwork in Early Years Education

Mudlarking is the ancient practice of digging in the mud of the Thames to find treasures.  It still goes on today, uncovering and recovering some amazing artefacts from the life of London city through the centuries.  Click on this link for more information about mudlarking.

images
Futurelab – Projects Archive – Mudlarking in Deptford

With this section of my website, I want to share some of the many wonderful treasures I dig up while researching and supporting outdoor play for children from birth to seven. I hope they inspire you too, and help you to create motivational, meaningful and satisfying outdoor play experiences for all the children you work with.  Mudlark posts will be brief and to the point.

In updating and expanding my book Playing and Learning Outdoors for its second edition (due out 14th Nov 2013), I was very keen to say more about woodwork and encourage its resurgence in early years education.  Having only found an ancient NAEYC publication from 1984, I thought this lack must be symptomatic of woodwork’s disappearance due to the rise in risk aversion we’ve been suffering from…

woodwork book

And then I discovered the wonderful sculptor and woodworker Pete Moorhouse and his Woodworkworks blog site.  Working as artist in residence with Filton Avenue Nursery School and Children’s Centre in Bristol, Pete has also produced a smashing 80 page book called Woodwork in Early Years Education.  Self-published on blurb, each spread has colour images on one side and very comprehensive advice on the other, and I feel it’s well worth the £20 (+£3 p&P) price.

His writing and practice is very pedagogically sound and I especially like how he emphasises that process is what matters, with open-ended exploration being supported rather than ‘projects’.  I think this book will go a long way to helping woodwork resume its rightful place in early childhood education in the UK.  Pete also offers training – I’m looking forward to arranging for some to be offered round my way up north…


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Mudlark Finds *4: The Garden Classroom

Mudlarking is the ancient practice of digging in the mud of the Thames to find treasures.  It still goes on today, uncovering and recovering some amazing artefacts from the life of London city through the centuries.  Click on this link for more information about mudlarking.

images
Futurelab – Projects Archive – Mudlarking in Deptford

With this section of my website, I want to share some of the many wonderful treasures I dig up while researching and supporting outdoor play for children from birth to seven. I hope they inspire you too, and help you to create motivational, meaningful and satisfying outdoor play experiences for all the children you work with.  Mudlark posts will be brief and to the point.

the garden classroom

Mudlark Find Number 4 is a superb ebook from Cathy James at Nurture Store, The Garden Classroom.  Nurture Store is an absolute treasure trove in itself, and I’ll refer to it again in future.  This book is 114 pages of beautiful images and text that make you want to get stuck into gardening with young children straight away.  Watch this little video for a taster.

As we found with Learning through Landscapes’ Growing Upwards project, you don’t have to know anything to make a start with growing – the very best way to work with children is to be genuinely curious and interested, to wonder and discover alongside, and to treat all ‘mistakes’ positively as ways of learning or getting better at something.  Being involved with the year-long Growing Upwards project convinced me that gardening is deeply important for children and remarkably powerful at developing child-led practice for adults, as well as being chock-full of thinking and learning that uncovers the entire curriculum (whatever that might include) and yields interest all through the year (see here for the findings from the project).

The Garden Classroom ebook is available here as an instant pdf download that is delivered by email, and costs $9.99 (approx £5.60) by Paypal.  Cathy also runs an associated Facebook page.


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Mudlark Finds *3: A First Book of Nature

Mudlarking is the ancient practice of digging in the mud of the Thames to find treasures.  It still goes on today, uncovering and recovering some amazing artefacts from the life of London city through the centuries.  Click on this link for more information about mudlarking.

images
Futurelab – Projects Archive – Mudlarking in Deptford

With this section of my website, I want to share some of the many wonderful treasures I dig up while researching and supporting outdoor play for children from birth to seven. I hope they inspire you too, and help you to create motivational, meaningful and satisfying outdoor play experiences for all the children you work with.  Mudlark posts will be brief and to the point.

Mudlark Find number 3 is a truly beautiful collaboration between children’s author and biologist, Nicola Davies, and natural history artist and illustrator, Mark Hearld.  In writing the book, which presents many lovely aspects of our natural world by each season, Nicola says that ” I cast off my grown-up self, and found the me I was at five or six.  Inside that younger self I could see the world as I saw it first – not just the sights and sounds of nature, but the feelings and thoughts about it that ran through me, strong as the tide.  This book comes to you from that little girl who stood in a barely field at dusk and felt the world turning.”

A first book of nature

Make sure that you linger over the images created by Mark Hearld and let the way he has caught so much of what nature feels like grow on you.  Although it’s hard to choose, I think my favourite pages are both of birds in winter: starlings (such a common bird while I was small and now a struggling species here) and ‘patchwork pigeons’.  For me, he has really captured feelings and thoughts – and the movements and characters of his animals.  If, like me and my daughter, you are captivated by this artist’s work, you might also be interested in Mark Hearld’s Work Book, also available on Amazon.