All posts by Mrs Thomson

Stirling University – Outdoor Learning

Initial Task - Den Building

Karen Thomson, Senior Early Years Officer, Falkirk Council Curriculum Support Team was invited to facilitate an Outdoor Learning session  for Third year initial teacher education students at Stirling University. The students were provided with a brief overview of how Outdoor Learning has developed in early years establishments over the last year.

The students then took part in a variety of different activities ranging from den building to  storytelling.  Here are some of the comments received from the students:-

“Unlike the weather, the morning we spent with Karen was fantastic.  Not only was it great fun and full of inspiring ideas, but I feel it’s really given me the confidence I was lacking to take children outside and utilise the natural resources we are surrounded with.  I’ve since contacted a local nursery and I’m scheduled to spend time with them during their forest school sessions.  This will help develop my knowledge and confidence further in this aspect of teaching, however without Karen’s enthusiasm its not something I would probably have done.”  

“The session served in the first instance to help when dealing with concerns from care-givers on the risks associated with outdoor learning, Karen and Laura highlighted that the use of research and associated data on accidents would be key in allaying concerns.  The practical element of the lesson highlighted the opportunities for cross curricular learning with the literacy and story telling exercises, numeracy with the clock making, learning new skill, taking risks through novel physical activity and hopefully the children then becoming advocates in their own households when they return home expressing the enjoyment they have had during the lesson.”

 “The session was great, I really enjoyed the teaching ideas for the early level, such as finding the numbers hidden in the woods, and making a clock to teach time. I feel a lot more confident about taking learning outdoors and can’t wait to try out some of the ideas!”

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Nethermains Outdoor CAT Session

Following on from the success of the Nursery Class visits to the woods and the parents sessions, Karen Thomson, Senior Early Years Officer and Jane Jackson, Outdoor Learning Development Officer, Falkirk Council Curriculum Support Team were invited to facilitate a CAT session for the teaching staff on 27th March 2013.

The site has been part of an outgoing project within the school and has been transformed and developed with the help of Criminal Justice Team.

During this session the staff took part in practical activities for maths and literacy lessons and discussed how these activities could be differentiated for all children. All staff were given a copy of Activity Descriptors that could assist in planning for outdoor learning.

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Early Years Conference

Karen Thomson –  Senior Early Years Officer, Curriculum Support Team, together with Daniel Barrie – Quality Improvement Officer, Heather Hush – Headteacher, Denny Nursery and Avril Robertson – Headteacher, Queen Street Nursery, organised the Early Years Conference on 13th February 2013.  This event was held at St. Bernadette’s Primary School in Larbert and participants were able to take part in 2 workshops throughout the day (from a choice of 13) as well as hear from Tam Bailie, Scotland’s Commissioner for Children and Young People and Kerry Crichton, Health and Wellbeing Development Officer, Education Scotland.

Despite the snowy weather this event was a great success and the outdoor workshops still managed to take place due to the Yurts that were kindly loaned by Falkirk Community Trust.   

The workshops were:-


Mary Jalland and Siobhan Cunningham were kind enough to showcase the blogs they have developed at Westquarter Primary School and Nursery Class. 

Mary and Siobhan also gave delegates some introduction information in getting their own nursery/school blog started. 

Blogging links (information given out during workshop)

Here are some of the comments from the workshop:

“Thanks very much for the very useful handout and great presentation.”

“Can see the benefits to parents/carers and how they could be more involved in the life of the nursery.”

“very informative and a great presentation – will take ideas back to setting – thank you for all the information.”


Many thanks to Yvonne Manning from Library Services for facilitating the storytelling workshop – fortunately we had managed to get a loan of a yurt from Falkirk Community Trust which was very useful due to the snow that morning!

Here is a selection of the comments:

“good to see storytelling to children without books, using visual props and the child’s imagination.”

“I am going to get the sewing machine out and make my own story cloak!  Wil love trying out my abilities at oral story telling!”

“few good ideas for oral stories – liked snowdrop and story stick.  Seen some new stories to read.”


Many thanks to Avril Robertson, Headteacher – Queen Street Nursery for facilitating this workshop.

Here are some of the comments from the exit passes:

“A good tool for self-evaluation in line with Child at the Centre.  Good opportunity for idea sharing.”

“good ideas to support children with additional support needs and provide early literacy activities.”

“useful literacy development tools and being able to recognise different ways to help develop children’s literacy.”


Ashley Johnston, Principal Teacher, St Margaret’s Primary School has been develoing the Primary 1 space and shared the journey with the delegates.

Here are some of the comments:

“Greater use of variety of tasks for maths including outdoors.  More play for deeper learning and consolidation.”

“I will look at classroom organisation and how to move away from whole class lessons and speak to stage partner about possibility of changing use of classrooms.”

Seeing how well two Primary 1 classes can work together and also hearing that the the work we do in nursery is appreciated and useful to P1 teachers.”


Many thanks to Laura Jarvie, Depute Headteacher for facilitating the Parental Involvement Workshop.

Click here for Presentation

Here are the comments from delegates:

“I will always

make myself available for parents who just want someone to listen to and to make them understand they are not alone.  Will always try to give my best advice to make them feel valued.”


Jane Jackson, Outdoor Learning Development Officer, held the Fire Workshop at the Conference – this was not an easy task with the snow, however all participants managed to get the fire lit with a variety of materials/resources.

Some of the feedback from this seesion:-

“this has helped to develop my confidence to do this activity with pre-school children who will benefit from a valuable learning experience”

“Excellent workshop, covered all safety and fun aspects – brilliant!”

“Apart from the lovely smokey smell, the course was very well delivered,  The facilitator’s passion for outdoors and for re-introducing risk in a controlled way came across wel and is one I firmly agree with”


Many thanks to Belinda Tomasik and Carole Roberts for the Nurture Class Workshop.

Click here for The six principles of nurture groups

Click here for Nurture Class Presentation

Some of the feedback:-

“I now have a better understanding of what a nurture class is and the additional needs of some children.”

“The value of the team approach and the significant effect on the children and the support for parents/carers.”

“I am beginning to think of children that could be potential for our nurture room”

“I am going to consider how to make my class more of a nurturing environment.”

“Highlights the importance of what is going on at home and of building good relationships with the parent.”


Many thanks for Sharon Wallace, Caroline Sweeney and Chelsey Johnson for facilitating the Active Literacy Workshop. 

The feedback received was very positive – here are some of the things that delegates took away from the workshop:-

“The idea of creating a ‘bear hunt’ within our toic of Toys.  Loved the innovative idea of fan to blow ‘snow’ – great! Thank you!”

“More use of pair work to encourage working together.”

“I will use more visual aids and use some of the suggested ideas to enhance active literacy in practice.”

“I will access the North Lanarkshire Pack and use it within the nursery.  I will liaise with P1 teachers.”

“We do some of the ideas already but I now feel more confident in going back and going loads more, especially shoulder partners.”

“I will encourage the nursery to use terminology and partner work for active literacy.”


Morag Simpson and Morag Young, PE Specialists/PE Lead Officers showcased some activities that Early Years children can take part in during the nursery sessions.

Early Years Presentation

“Lots of good ideas that will be of use in our nursery gym time”

“The warm up acivities were excellent.  Great links to literacy and numeracy.”

“PE is great resources fro interdisciplinarly learning!  Fab presenters!”

“Great, practical, easy ideas.”

“A lot of good ideas for use with 0-5 and tips of how to adjust to level of child.  Lots of great ideas for topics and especially early literacy and numeracy.”

Here is the handout that was given to all participants.



Many thanks to Jan Baxter and the Peripatetic Support Team for the Learning Journey input at the Conference.  This gave participants an opportunity to look at some learning journeys from other establishments and raise any issues they have had while implementing these into their setting.  Click here for Learning Journeys Presentation

Here are some of the comments:-

“I will now use the children’s quotes in their Learning Journeys and continue to look at the child’s next steps.”

“Some reassurance that what we are doing is OK”

“I am going to collect some significant photos that could be used in future learning journeys.”

“Hurrah, I think the penny has dropped and should be able to fill in journeys with more confidence.”

“This workshop has clarified Learning Journeys for me and I feel we are making progress and are heading in the right direction.  We will continue to develop our learning journeys.”


Many thanks to Julie Buchanan from Grounds for Learning for delivering the Loose Materials Workshop (in the snow!)  It was great to see Outdoor Learning at it’s best in the weather.  Julie has thanked us for inviting her and let us know that she had a lovely day and it was great to be part of our exciting event!

Here are some of the weblinks that Julie mentioned during the workshop:-

Here is some of the feedback:-

“really good ideas.  A lot of everyday resources you can use that you already have.”

“the use of tarpaulin to make dens – simple but easy to use with children.  Will try to resource equipment for den making – it looks like fun!”

“Really liked the small loose meterials that can be used to be creative eg picture making and can then lead onto using other curricular areas eg storywriting about picture.”


Many thanks to Kirsty Wallace who demonstrated how Creative Dance Project can be included in the Early Years.

Some of the comments from the exit passes were:-

“Inspirational – good ideas – very good!”

“I feel more confident in using the pack and making dances up myself.”

“lots of good ideas to help the children have fun through movement and dance.”


Yvonne McBlain also facilitated the workshop “Strong Learning Intentions, Good Success Criteria AND Interdisciplinary Learning – How do we put it all together?”

Click here for the Presentation

Some of the evaluations are:-

“I am going to share different style of planning with management team.”

“Everyone is finding the whole LI and SC challenging and good to know others feeling the same!”

“The difference between learning intentions and success criteria is now a bit clearer!”

“writing shorter, sharper learning intentions and success criteria.”

As a result of this workshop Yvonne has been invited to deliver this again to all Denny Cluster Schools on 16th April at Denny Primary School.  For further details contact Lee Campbell on 50 8810.


Yvonne McBlain also facilitated the Higher Order Skills Workshop.

Click here for the Higher Order Skills Presenation

Here are some of the comments from the participants

“I now have a better understanding of blooms triangle.  I will think of this in my future work.”

“I know have a better understanding of how this could be implemented when planning for each child.”

“This wil help with planning and organising new topics for the children.”

“I will start to identify the specific higher order skills at planning.”

“I will obtain examples of skills and apply this to questioning and activities within the classroom.”


Here are just some of the excellent displays from Early Years Settings in Falkirk Council – more photos will be uploaded shortly.
 Bainsford Nursery
Wallacestone Nursery Class


Bankier Nursery Class


Bantaskin Primary School


Bo’ness Public Nursery Class


St Bernadette’s Nursery Class

Karen Thomson, Senior Early Years Officer, Falkirk Council Curriculum Support Team, has supported St Bernadette’s Nursery Class in establishing ‘Forest Friday’.  This began with a parents session on 4th October followed by the children’s fist visit on 12th October.  A group of 10 children visit Larbert Woods each week supported by 3 adults for the full nursery session.  Parents drop off and collect from the site.  This is part of the Outdoor Learning Project to encourage children to access their local woodland/greenspace and give them the opportunity to learn through play in a natural environment.

For more information – check out St Bernadette’s Blog

Learning Journey Visits

Daniel Barrie, Quality Improvement Officer and Karen Thomson, Senior Early Years Officer, Falkirk Council Curriculum Support Team are currently visiting all early years settings as a follow up to the Learning Journey training last year.

The purpose of these visits is to ascertain how each establishment are implementing Learning Journeys in their setting, for example:-

How individual children’s learning journeys are shown and tracked;

How the children’s interests  are informing the planning process;

How the learning journeys are demonstrating breadth, depth and progression?

How do the learning journeys show InterdisciplinaryLearning?

During this visit they will also be looking at Outdoor Learning within the nursery as well as planning and evaluation.  They will be collating information gathered during these visits to ascertain where Curriculum Support Team can support early years staff in preparation for CPL offered during session 2013/2014.

Comely Park Nursery Class

Comely Park Nursery Class chose Callendar Park for their venue for the Outdoor Learning Project.  Karen Thomson, Senior Early Years Officer, Falkirk Council Education Services Curriculum Support Team, assisted staff in preparing for these visits and, following a parents information session (presentation for parents  ) supported all members of staff on the initial visits.  Comley Park staff were supported by a parent helper and this is continuing every week where a group (maximum of 10 children) will spend their nursery session in Callendar Park Woods.  The children come into nursery at the normal time and then walk to the Park – the staff felt this was very important to give children the opportunity to learn about safety issues as well as improving their fitness levels.

The children are encouraged to explore the woodland area and have the opportunity to risk assessment and challenge themselves through natural play.

Click here for videos of the sessions.

More videos

Bo’ness Public Nursery Class

Bo’ness Public Nursery staff identified a small woodland area within Douglas Park which they identified as an ideal site within walking distance of the Nursery.

As part of the Outdoor Learning Project within Falkirk Council, Karen Thomson, Senior Early Years Officer, Falkirk Council Education Services Curriculum Support Teamvisited the site and carried out a risk assessment with the staff.  Following information sessions for the parents (powerpoint for parents) the children began their sessions in the woods on 5th March.

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Nethermains Parent Sessions

Over the past few weeks  Karen Thomson, Senior Early Years Officer, Falkirk Council Education Services Curriculum Support Team, has held Parent Information and ‘Come and Play’ Sessions to enable parents to become more informed of the outdoor learning initiative that Nethermains Nursery Class have taken forward.

See Powerpoint for Parents

These sessions have proved very successful with parents being able to explore the woodland with their child and becoming more aware of the benefits of outdoor play and learning.  Many of the parents discussed the shift in attitudes towards play since they were children and the importance of them knowing their child is safe while in this exciting environment. 

Here is some video footage of the children’s experiences in the woodland.

St Patrick’s Nursery Class

Relaxing in the woods!

Over the past three weeks,  Karen Thomson, Senior Early Years Officer, Falkirk Council Education Services Curriculum Support Team, has been supporting St Patrick’s Nursery Class to access the Stoneywood Woods in Denny as part of the nursery session. This initially involved meetings with Karen Downie, Principal Teacher, to identify and risk assess the site and address any issues that may arise. Information was then sent out to parents to inform them of the new inititiative that their children would have the opportunity to take part in (see parent presentation).  Karen then held information sessions for the parents to come along to and ask any questions they may have. Having gained consent from the parents, all nursery children have now had the opportunity to access these woods for the full nursery session, the children are dropped off and collected at a meeting point and then staff walk with the children into the woods. As with any normal nursery session, the children are given the opportunity to play freely, explore their own interests, the environment, build confidence and take risks.  The children also have a warm snack while outdoors. Some activities are set for the children (for example maths activities such as measuring and information handling).

It is now planned that staff will take this inititiave forward in the summer term and also look at other green spaces around the school to give the children the opportunity to explore a number of different environments. It is also planned to take this forward throughout the school.

Have a look at the videos taken throughout the sessions:-

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