All posts by Mrs Thomson

Westquarter Primary School – Better Movers, Better Thinkers

Karen Thomson, Morag Simpson and Morag Young, Physical Education Lead Officers, Falkirk Council Curriculum Support Team visited Wesquarter Primary School for some Better Movers, Better Thinkers Sessions on Friday 30th August 2013.

Better Movers and Thinkers (BMT) is an innovative, exciting and challenging movement and learning programme for Physical Education, that focuses directly on enhancing links between movement and thinking, and how these critical elements scaffold the development of physical performance and learning across the curriculum.

Parents were invited in during family time and joined in with an introductory session of BMT.  The turnout of parents was exceptional – well done to everyone who turned up and took part.  Westquarter staff are keen to incorporate this strategy into their Physical Education lessons.  A follow up session with staff is planned for 13th Setember 2013.

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Glenbervie Kindergarden – Outdoor Learning

Karen Thomson, Senior Early Years Offcier, Falkirk Council Curriculum Supoprt Team has been supporting Glenbervie Kindergarden who are the latest private partner nursery to start using NHS Larbert Woods on a regular basis.  Following a parent session on 14th August children aged 3 and 4 are now accessing the site weekly.  The children walk from the nursery and stay on site for approximately 2 hours before begnning their walk home.  Staff were amazed how well the children have managed this and noticed an increase in their stamina and energy even at the end of a busy session.

During the session on 21st August the children explored the environment and found some very interesting features to play – especially a large puddle.

The staff are also listening to the children’s interestes and some of the children found a hole which they believed to be a fox hole.  A conversation about other nocturnal animals then evolved with all children taking part – this is now something that the nursery can take forward as a topic and be able to make it relevant for the children because of their visit to the woods.

All children had great fun – although I am sure the washing machine might have been pushed to the limits!

Glenbervie Kindergarden Outdoor Learning

Glenbervie Kindergarden are the latest nursery to embark on Outdoor Learning for their children.  Karen Thomson, Senior Early Years Officer, falkirk Council Curriculum Support Team held a training session for staff on 12th June at Larbert Woods NHS Site.

This session gave staff the opportunity to take part in practical activities as well as discuss any logistic issues they will face in getting the children out to access this exciting space. 

Watch this space for details of their first visit.

Learning Journey Visits

Karen Thomson, Senior Early Years Officer, Falkirk Council Curriculum Support Team has been visiting a number of establishments over the last few months to look at Learning Journeys.

The purpose of these visits have been to ascertain how each nursery establishment have implemented Learning Journeys into their practice.  Karen has also been looking at how the evidence in the Journeys link to the planned learning intentions and also how the children’s journeys are having an impact on the planning process. 

There are still some establishments that have not been visited and these will be arranged as soon after the summer holidays as possible.

There will be further training in session 2013/2014 as follows:

Learning Journeys: An introduction  – for newly qualified or appointed staff or teaching staff who have recently taken over the Nursery remit.

Monday 2nd September 2013 – 9am-11am, 1pm-3pm or 4pm-6pm

Learning Journeys: A Year On – Surgeries for all practitioners to discuss the implementation of Learning Journeys in their establishment.

Wednesday 11th September, Wednesday 18th September and Wednesday 9th October – 4pm-6pm

These session will be held at Camelon Education Centre – further details will be issued to CPD Co-ordinators shortly.

Wallacestone Wanderers – Nursery Outdoor Learning

Wallacestone Nursery are about to embark on an Outdoor Learning Project.  The children will be visiting Lionthorn Estate on a regular basis with effect from 29th May 2013. 

Karen Thomson, Senior Early Years Officer, Falkirk Council Education Services Curriculum Support Team, facilitated two parent information sessions to advise parents of this new venture. (see presentation)

This is part of Early Years Officer, Heather Cochrane’s  Start Right Project and she has lead this initiative and will share her report with colleagues as part of this professional development programme.  She is still looking for funding to purchase all-in-one weather suits for the children.

“Here are some of the comments from parents after the information session:- 

“My child will really enjoy this experience and I think it will really help her confidence and problem solving skills.  Looks like it will be great fun.”

“My son will gain more confidence and understanding of risks and outdoor.  I think this will be very good for my child, as he does not get to take risks with me as much as he could.  He will thoroughly enjoy himself.”

“Very enthusiastic.  I work as an Ecologist and really feel this area of learning could be introduced at an early age.  Gives them an alternative classroom with a whole different range of skills to learn.”

“Very interested and excited – I think my son will get a lot from outdoor learning experiences, in terms of physical activity, confidence-building, risk assessment and social interactions.  Also, might encourage us as a family to spend more time out of doors too!”

Watch this space for photos and videos of the Wallacestone Wanderers first trip!

Airth Nursery Class – Larbert NHS Site

Airth Nursery Class have also embarked on the Outdoor Learning Early Years Project.  They are visiting the Larbert NHS Woodland Site on a regular basis.  A group of 10 children are off-site every week on a Tuesday for the full nursery session.  Karen Thomson, Senior Early Years Officer, Falkirk Council Curriculum Support Team, visited the group on 30th April.

 It was clear that the children are becoming more confident in this new exciting environment and they were able to explain to Karen what they like to do in the woods and where they like to explore.

During the session, it was clear to see that the children are experiencing a wide range of Curriculum for Excellence Outcomes and Experiences for example:-

The children noticed that there were more ‘flowers’ (daffodils and dandelions) than their previous visit.  They are discussing and examining the changes that have occurred since they were last here.   (I explore and discover the interesting features of my local environment to develop an awareness of the world around me.  SOC 0-07a

 On the walk to the woods, one child decided to count the dandelions at the side of the path.  (I am developing a sense of size and amount by observing, using and communicating with other about things in the world around me.  MNU 0-01a).  She discovered that there were “80 dandelions!”

It was one of the few sunny days that we experience in Scotland and the children noticed that their shadows were cast onto the path.  They asked the question “why is my shadow in front of me but when I turn around it is still there?”   This began a conversation about where the sun was in the sky and how this has created the shadow there.  Later on in the session, when the sun had moved, the children recalled this discussion and noticed that “my shadow has now moved to the side of me”  (By observing and recording the sun and moon at various times, I can describe their patterns of movement and changes over time SCN 1-06a). 

We then went for a walk around the pond.  The children were keen to feed the ducks and tried to attract them over to them.  Where the children were standing was very mucky and the children commented that they should move to another spot as the ducks would not come over in the muck.  We discussed that we might have to be a bit quieter as they may be scared of us. 

At the water the children also explored a variety of objects and whether they would sink or float and which object made the biggest splash!

Throughout all these child directed activities they are developing a curiosity and understanding of their environment and their place in the living, material and physical world.

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St Patrick’s Primary School CAT Session

Jane Jackson, Outdoor Development Officer and Karen Thomson, Senior Early Years Officer – Falkirk Council Education Services Curriculum Support Team, were invited to facilitate a CAT session for all teaching staff at St. Patrick’s Primary School on 29th April.  This is a follow up to the project that has been embraced by the Nursery Staff in getting the children off site regularly for the whole nursery session (see previous blog).

During this session, the staff took part in a number of practical activities that could be used with a class when taking them outside.  These activities ranged from creating a clock using natural materials to writing poetry.  See sample planner of activities.

Here are some of the poems that were created:

“North I stood facing the wood
to the East was buzzing a bumblebee
I turned to the West in my waterproof vest
then down to the South I spotted Grangemouth”

“Blue skies, fluffy clouds
what do you feel underground?
Turn around, what do you see?
bare trees and one queen bee
Church spire, lets enquire ….
I’m off to explore!”

Karen Downie, Principal Teacher, has already reported on the impact of the session – “Thanks for Monday night, I have to admit there was a wee buzz around the school on Tuesday and the foyer door was revolving all day with classes going outside.”

St Patrick’s staff will continue to develop Outdoor Learning within their school and Karen and Jane will carry out a follow up session on Monday 13th May.  Staff are also planning a full day outside on Friday 21st June as part of the ‘Play on the Longest Day’ initiative.

Watch this space for more information and some photos!

St Andrew’s Nursery Class – Outdoor Learning

St Andrew’s Nursery Class are the latest nursery to embark on the Outdoor Learning Project.  Karen Thomson, Senior Early Years Officer, Falkirk Council Curriculum Support Team, has supported staff, pupils and parents in the development of this programme.

Having met with staff and identified a site within Callendar Park, Karen met with parents to offer an information session (click here for presentation).  Some of the staff also visited another nursery to see how they ran their outdoor sessions as part of the preparation to getting off-site. 

The main aim of the project is to give children the opportunity to explore and play in the natural environment, using it as a stimulus for learning.  The children are actively encouraged to self-assess the risks and challenge themselves in this new exciting environment.  During the first session, the children took part in a number of activites:-

Measuring – children used a variety of materials to measure their hand, arm, leg and height and compare the sizes.  (I have experimented with everyday items as units of measure to investigate and compare sizes and amounts in my environment, sharing my findings with others – MNU 0-11a).

Sorting and Matching – the children found a variety of objects and brought them back to camp.  They were then involved in the discussion how to categorise these – this became a detailed discussion as some children were wishing alternative categories.  “I want to put the green leaf in the green pile and not with the other brown leaves”.  The children also discussed at great length how to sort the varying sizes of sticks and how to tell the difference between a stick and a twig.  (I can match objects, and sort using my own and others’ criteria, sharing my ideas with others – MNU 0-20b).

It was then decided that the children would go exploring to see what else we could find.  A group of children found a huge puddle that ran all the way under the bridge and had a fantastic time splashing and playing the water – they were very wet!!  We also found frog spawn at the side of the water which has brought to life the Spring/Life Cycle Topic they are currently investigating in nursery.

A great first session in the woods!

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Bright Beginnings Nursery

On the way to camp - this is very interesting!

Bright Beginnings Nursery is the first Falkirk Council Commissioned Partner Nursery to embark on the Outdoor Learning Project.  Karen Thomson, Senior Early Years Officer, Falkirk Council Curriculum Support Team initially visted the staff during a meeting to discuss any issues and logistics they may face while taking on this new venture.  Karen then attended a parents information session in February to explain the benefits of Outdoor Learning and Natural Play.  The staff also came along to a visit to Callendar Park with Comely Park Nursery Class as an informal training session (many thanks to Comely Park staff for enabling this to happen) – staff have commented how beneficial this session was and the children at Bright Beginnings are now going out to Callendar Park to spend a nursery session outdoors.  The feedback from staff, children and parents has been excellent.  The Manager has stated that this has been an excellent project for all the staff to be working on and the staff who have already been are very enthusiastic about going back (as are the children!).  Initially it is the 3-5 year old children who are taking part in this project, however parents of the younger children are now asking when it will be their child’s turn.  Once the staff and 3-5 aged children have established their sessions in the woods it is hoped that the 2 year old children will also have the opportunity to experience this exciting learning environmnent.  Watch this space!!

During the sessions, children were interested in Callendar House and the children visited the kitchen and the exhibition in the gallery.

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