1 EXPLORE YOUR VISION AND VALUES
As a team, explore ‘The Shared Vision and Values for Outdoor Play in the Early Years’. Developed by a partnership of early years organisations, academics, advocates and groups, this declaration comprises three vision statements and ten principles – see https://bit.ly/2RpHFxg for the most recent version:
- Work through the vision statements – as a setting, could you adopt these?
- Taking each principle in turn, examine how your practice compares to these statements. Do you recognise elements of your practice in these illustrations? What might be the barriers to adopting them fully? How could you overcome these barriers? Record the group’s responses so that you can collate them into an action plan.
- With Vision and Values in mind, go outdoors as a group and play! Use the resources that children have access to every day and explore how they could support the Vision and Values statements.
2 ’ADOPT’ A SPACE
Rather than charging one person with the whole task of managing the outdoors, divide the space into either physical areas or types of play.
- Ask each colleague to research the potential of their space or activity and plan how it can be maximised – start by observing how things are done currently. This research should include playing out!
- Share everyone’s thoughts and ideas, perhaps via a dedicated ‘board’ on an online shared space such as OneDrive or Trello.
- Each Champion should refine their thoughts into short-, medium- and long-term action plans, ideally aligned to one or more of the Vision and Values principles.
3 SEEK OUT CPD
Even with tight budgets, CPD is still an essential element in every professional’s working life. There are many providers of outdoor play CPD, but before signing up to any, assess where the gaps in knowledge or experience lie across the whole setting; a ‘getting started outdoors’ course might not be the answer. Instead, a specific focus on, for example, maths, literacy, STEM or physicality outdoors might better suit your overall objectives.
4 USE SOCIAL MEDIA
Social media, for all its peaks and troughs, is an amazing source of inspiration, ideas, resources and professional development.
- On Facebook – the search terms ‘outdoor play’, ‘outdoor learning’, ‘early years outdoors’, ‘curriculum based outdoor learning’ will bring up dozens of lively groups and pages, where generous Facebookers share ideas, advice and resources.
- On Twitter and Instagram – start with the hashtags #earlyyearsoutdoors, #outdoorplay and #natureplay and you’ll quickly find compelling threads and people.
- Blogs – there are too many to list here, but www.creativestarlearning.com, www.juliangrenier.blogspot.co.uk and https://teachertomsblog.blogspot.com are excellent places to start.
5 IN AN IDEAL WORLD
Now consider your ultimate aspiration for your own professional development, and for the quality of outdoor play at your setting. Ignoring (for now) budgets, staffing, limited time, what would you really like children to be able to ‘do’ outdoors? What can you do to make that happen?
High aspirations for what children can achieve outdoors are important, and even if your ultimate aspiration seems unattainable, it will provide you with a direction of travel (create more shade, plant fruit-bearing trees, allow children to climb the trees you do have, for example).
And another thing…
A shared staff ‘floorbook’ is a great idea. Online boards (for example, Trello and Pinterest) are great for storing documents, but there is no substitute for a tangible record that you can flick through, show other people and add to regardless of whether you are online or not.
Use the floorbook for ideas, scraps of articles, pictures and links to blogs, but also to record responses to the five prompts above. Tape this article to the inside cover, and give the Vision and Values a prominent place so it is always there to provide inspiration and direction.