Monday, 3 March 2014

Outdoor diary

Welcome to the outdoor diary.  I've had a fabulous few weeks outside and we have got so much out of the children.  The following 9 posts are just a snippet of the excellent work which happens outside of our setting. 
None of us are under any illusion - our outdoor area needs some work.  Its run down and sadly has not received the care it needs.  We are about to embark on an expansion and some major work so hopefully that will all change soon.  For now we are 'making do' with what we have.  Often that means using recyclable resources and doing lots of things 'on the cheap.'  Many people have messaged me through this dairy to comment about how they have similar problems.  Well you don't need to spend the earth - just have a good bank of easily reached resources to hand which can be engineered to become different things.  You just don't know what a bread crate will be from day to day.  We've had a weaving net, a train, a castle, a car and a cave this fortnight - and thats perfect.  It encourages their imagination and thats what we are here for.  

Today was my last day in my 'outdoor fortnight.'  I am a little sad in a way (happy also because I get to get messy indoors next week) because we have had such a wonderful time.  I've had a good go with all aspects of the curriculum outdoors and literally made a whole heap out of nothing. 
We build up slightly in the area we focussed on yesterday (around the small trees).  I attached a few bread crates to trees with some wool.  The boys really got into tying them up (cutting the wool and tying the knots).  One little boy who is brand new to Nursery was really excited about using the scissors outside and was actually fabulous!  His fine motor is really good so it was nice to see him accessing and achieving after only a few days.

We got hold of some ribbons and began to weave through the crates.  I have some great little weavers today but some who were not as good as I had thought.  Its quite a skill using both hands and being able to co-ordinate passing from one hand to the other but behind a semi visual barrier.

It was yet another beautiful day today.  We had a really cold start but it soon warmed up to be a really lovely day.  I set up a few of the usual musical instruments which we have out (on an old tripod stand) and a box.  After the excitement of hanging bird feeders I had mentioned to a staff member that I wanted to hang some instruments from a tree and make a king of 'mobile.'  
We started hanging pans and pots from a smaller tree and quickly the children got excited about what else they could find.  We talked about the different size of the objects we were hanging and the sounds which they made.  We also discussed what they were made of (wood, metal, plastic etc.)

After quite a while we had a very weird and quirky collection.  My favourite is the watering can:)  

Then I got out some empty plastic bottles we had and made a shaker using some wood shavings.  The children all followed suit and began to make their own shakers.  We had some with wood in, compost, stones, little plastic toys and even one with just air - to see what happened!  

It was a really musical, and vibrant day.

Today I went to a Castle as part of our topic on Princes and Princesses.  I only got a very short time outside but we still managed to have some fun, it just proves what you can do in 20 minutes!

It was the end of the afternoon and the sun was starting to pass behind the school and our shadows were long.  I began to draw around a few of the children's shadows.  They noticed and started to join in.  It wasn't long before they started drawing around other shadows in the playground.  Then they started to colour them in in all the different colours - but sadly also my shoes!

Also on the note of birds (see below) I told my manager today that we hadn't had much luck with the birds but just before I left I saw three very fat pigeons waddling over towards our feeders - VICTORY!

My day was a little short today as I had PPA this afternoon (but I need the teacher who covered me had a fab time doing the same thing.)
We had had a good bash at wood work yesterday and I wanted to follow this through today however the tools we had arranged to get were a little rubbish.  But we're Nursery and we make do!
We set up a log with some holes already drilled into them and one of the manual screw drivers (with a thick drill bit).  This way they could practise their skills at turning the dial but at the same time rest the drill bit inside so it was slightly supported (not slipping all over the place.)
We had a little go with the nuts and bolts again but the star of today seemed to be making cars using the resources.  We have a unit (an old work bench from big school) set up with drawers containing all the resources:
1) Hammers and nails
2) Sand paper
3) Round pre cut wheels.
4) Goggles
5) Screw drivers and pliers. 

The children had a good go at making cars and building up from their skills they had learned yesterday and in preview sessions.  They were very good holding the nail and hammering at the same time (a few near misses but that's alright) and they were very good at remembering their goggles. One little boy wanted me to do it for him, but I was mean and told him he had to do it himself - and he did it brilliantly!

Today was the beginning of another fabulous week (it seems).  The sun was really shining and setting up this morning I could feel that the children were going to come in excited.  We laid out pretty much the same basic provision as any other day (writing, reading, bikes, hoops, balls, etc.) but made sure they were out in the open in the sunshine.  I had been thinking about construction for a few days.  We had done some gardening last week as well as hunting for minibeasts. That had really helped their fine motor control and the bird feeders had really helped that too - so I wanted to get busy with some wood work.

When I was a student I remember seeing a video showing some children doing some wood work, banging away with hammer and nails.  We all recoiled in shock!  How could you dare allow children to have nails?  They will hurt each other, goodness what would happen if someone hit someone else?!
Well now I'm qualified and a [little] more experienced I realise the superb benefits of having wood work available.  It aids their fine and gross motor development, understanding of safety, creativity, mathematical development (size, shape etc.), communication and language - basically everything!
I was talking to a staff member passing by today and explain that its such a joy when they make their own car and get it out and drive it around.  That ownership and pride of having made their own toy is incredible.

I had a little play with the basic skills today.  I got a log stepping stone which we "rescued" from the area across from our school.  I drew on some little black dots for them to 'aim' for when they hammered - this improved their hand eye co-ordination even further.  

I also put out one of my home made fine motor planks complete with padlocks and keys as well as a basket of nuts and bolts (the size related language was fabulous)
Tomorrow our plans is to think about making actual wooden toys but I've asked for some extra tools, you never know what could happen:) 

After yesterday's success with bird feeders (and the new sound of cheeping in our yard) we moved onto a different type of feeder today - this one was a little less messy and really engaged the children with their fine motor control.

We used pipe cleaners and cheerios.  We tied a knot in the bottom of the pipe cleaner and poured the cheerios into a black tray under the tree.  We all worked together to thread the cereal onto the cleaners and once completed we hung them onto the tree.  They looked really good against the bird feeders from yesterday.

 The most striking thing which caught me about this activity was how intricate the movement was to thread the cleaner through the cereal yet all of my children were able to do this without any help.

We followed through with our rocket today with some role play.  We added some boxes and crates so that they could build up the play themselves and we had some interesting outcomes "(trains, monsters, castles, alien houses)".
Our art co-ordinator also came in, loved our chalks, and had a jolly ol' time!

Today one of the first jobs we did was to check our home made minibeast hotel from yesterday.  We hadn't had much luck in the past with this but today we decided to talk about it.  Some of the children wanted to change it and add to it.  We moved a few pieces about and made it "flatter" and "better" (we laid sticks and pipes horizontally to make it more compact.)
We had some success and found a slug in it by the end of the session - hopefully we should have some new friends tomorrow however this activity is beginning to run out somewhat. 

Another 'job' that I wanted to do today was to made bird feeders.  We had talked about the different things we could see in our garden but at the time we couldn't see any birds!:(  In fact, after a talk with the staff we all realised that we rarely see any birds - so bird feeders it was!  See this link from the RSPB on how to make great feeders.

1) First we mixed a full block of Trex into a bowl after "chopping" it up.
2) Then we added about 2 cups of bird seeds (but about a 50:50 measurement seems to work). Mix it together.
3) We cut a small hole in the bottom of a yoghurt pot and thread a string through, tying a knot at one end.
4) We add the mix to the yoghurt pots to the top and "smoothed" it over.
5) Hang from the tree!

Because the Trex is just lard, it will melt in the sunshine.  Today was a sunny day so after lunch a few of the feeders had fallen out of the pot.  The second time around (for our afternoon group) we decided to hang the pots the other way around.  It meant they were wonky but at least all the mix would stay in!

The last thing we did today was to explore a rocket that we were given as a gift from the main school.  It had already been decorated but we wanted to explore it none the less.  Tomorrow we have our Art consultant coming to see us - perhaps it will end up looking like a fabulously Nursery-like rocket.

Building on yesterday's success with minibeasts we went looking for more!  We had built our own minibeast hotel and left it out overnight hoping to attract some new visitors - we failed:(  I think perhaps it is just too cold at the minute but there were plenty of worms and slugs around.

We went for a walk down to the school garden to have a look about at the things that are growing already and had a talk about what start to grow soon.  We also found A LOT of snails, so we knew where they all went. Some of the children discovered the chalks which I made over the holiday and started to make marks.  Initially they wouldn't work on the chalk board (because of their awkward shape) but then when they discovered that you could use them on the pavement, they were happy!
 We had some really lovely mark making today, especially from some of the boys which was the intention - they don't usually mark make at all.

The children had a lovely day but were a little disappointed that there weren't many more minibeasts than yesterday.  Tomorrow we have some bird seeds and trex to make some bird feeders (watch out for the post) - but you never know what they will be into tomorrow!

What a day we have had!  The sun has had his hat on and we have had our investigation hats on.  I bought a commercial minibeast hotel from Morrisons the other day whilst shopping for allotment supplies.  I was very excited about it because I knew that the children had seen minibeasts but were not particularly versed at catching, talking about or studying them.  When we set up the outdoors first thing I made sure to place it in an exciting corner of the garden surrounded by lots of other useful resources.  The children discovered it a bit at a time.  I had to introduce the hotel and explain what it was and, for the first few moments at least, lead the play.  But once we got started, we left no stone unturned!

We found plenty of slugs and worms but sadly no snails ("they're asleep for now").  We used little plastic magnifying tubs to investigate them properly and named most.  We had some wonderful language:

"Slimy, "Gooey," "Small," "Huge," "Long," "Pinky and browny," "burrow under," "sticky," "bigger than," "Smaller than," - Fantastic when you think that most of the children are still developing most of their vocabulary.

When we had exhausted all of the hiding places we begun to think about what we could do next.  A few children talked about "catching" some more (With steely eyes and a hunters instinct) but we decided that we could leave the hotel out and see if any more came to 'stay'.  We also built our own hotel (with a little help from me) and this is out over night to see if any more come to check in.

The play lasted for about fifty minutes and was much the same on the afternoon.  We had such a lovely day and we think tomorrow we might try a little more digging and planting, perhaps visit one of the other gardens in the school - but who knows where the play will lead!

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