by Sarah Rankin
At the end of October we introduced Out to Play to two new nurseries: Buchlyvie and Crookston. Already we are half way through and it’s fantastic fun. Westercraigs and Barlanark taught me so much about nurseries, children, challenges they can face and possible opportunities for Early Years Learning in Scotland. Beginning new nurseries provides an excellent opportunity to build upon this knowledge and meet whole new groups of driven staff and energetic children.
Buchlyvie Nursery in Easterhouse has an engaging outside space with an outdoor classroom, trees, water and music walls, bug hotel, and, of course, a mud kitchen. In the near future they will also have the new 7 Lochs green space development on their door step. As part of the Greater Easterhouse Green Infrastructure Project to increase access to high quality greenspace Glasgow City Council are working on the land behind the nursery. According to the Glasgow City Council website the area next to Buchlyvie Nursery will benefit greatly from the development.
‘Blue networks will be created through daylighting of Whamflet burn and creation of wetland storage areas, with green network improvements through Core Path linkages; path creation and improvements within greenspaces and improving access to greenspaces from existing, and future development, residential sites; increasing drainage capacity and flood storage; tree planting and general landscaping improvements; natural play creation and improved nodal exercise points for the area; and the creation of a wildflower meadow as a habitat for fossorial water voles.’
This seems like one step in the right direction to increase community access to free green spaces and the nursery staff can’t wait to explore it with the children.
Crookston Nursery also has an exciting outside space, with Telly Tubby hills, herb garden, sheltered areas, trees, grass and the classic mud kitchen. Their space features an unusual narrow curve along the side of their building. This patch could be seen as a challenge however it’s perfect for treasure hunts and adventures as you follow the path to potted plants and an exciting water wall. It seems Nurseries have the benefit of nipping out on walks and adventures that perhaps schools would need to have advance permission and timetables for. For example Crookston Nursery regularly takes advantage of popping to nearby outside spaces like the school pitches, allotments, local parks and has Crookston Castle just next door.
It has been an interesting challenge to adapt the Out to Play workshops to respond to these new nurseries. As well as considering specific needs of the group and the new outdoor spaces we have had to consider the change in seasons. As we are now truly into autumn it has got too cold to plant seeds as we did in earlier weeks so I created a whole new session inspired by the humble stick. I shared the story of a tree named Awongolema and the children explored their garden with their own stick. We experimented with the sticks by making noise, drawing in the ground and giving them names. They enjoyed singing songs with egg shakers and embodying the animal from the story.
The cold snap at the end of October sparked another change to the original plan. I was able to add to the story of Tiddalik the Frog to take advantage of the frost and ice that had appeared overnight. I said that by the time Tiddalik the frog gave back the water it was winter and all the water froze. All the animals had to help the ice melt by using their warm breath and dancing to create heat. The unplanned plot twist prompted the children to run around the garden dancing next to icey puddles and using their warm breath to help them thaw. They were in awe as their warm breath melted frost on leaves right before their eyes. This workshop has stuck with the children at Buchlyvie Nursery and they ask every week when Jack Frost and Elsa from Frozen will come back to make it frosty and icey.
I thoroughly planned for the first residencies and having tried and tested the workshops I felt more confident going off script this time. I have allowed more time for free play and trusted that being outdoors would provide plenty of unplanned learning opportunities. Altering the workshops to respond to the new environments and weather has been pivotal in genuinely connecting with nature. Allowing for more improvisation and role play has supported children to process stories and information more deeply.
The workshops have continued to create an inclusive space that all ages and stages can benefit from. Both nurseries have shown a great understanding of the many advantages of being outside and have put no restrictions on the children’s engagement. For example children that have been diagnosed to be on the autistic spectrum that may struggle with group work and long periods of sitting have been allowed freedom to engage in their own way.
Buchlyvie and Crookston nurseries have been very welcoming and a pleasure to work with. After a couple of weeks the children had let their characters shine and really came out of their shells. I feel very privileged that the children trust me and are comfortable enough to share their creative imaginations. What an adventure!