EYFS Activities - An A to Z of learning: U is for understanding the world around them

The Rachel Keeling Nursery School team
Tuesday, November 23, 2021

For children, understanding the world around them is about the people, communities, places and environment, says the Rachel Keeling Nursery School team

Children have been engaged in activities including investigating spiders and harvesting food from the allotment
Children have been engaged in activities including investigating spiders and harvesting food from the allotment

At Rachel Keeling, understanding the world around them begins before children even start school when we visit children and their families to find out a little bit about them and their family: Where are they from? What languages do they speak? What do they like to do? Who lives with them?

We work hard to involve families in the journey ahead, building positive relationships and valuing their contributions. We recognise that families come in so many different and wonderful shapes and sizes, made up of different people. We greet each family with love and openness.

We widen children’s experiences of people: the staff team and their peers. It is really important we support children in learning the names and faces of the new people in their lives. We do this by playing games and reading books together, circle time and small group experiences such as making playdough, painting and parallel play sessions. In addition, the fact children see us welcome their family into nursery each day at drop-off and pick-up time sends out a powerful message.

The part our Special Book plays in this is essential. The Special Book is the child’s learning record at school that is shared between home and school. It helps to build a picture of each child, their interests, skills and learning priorities. Each child’s book is so unique, just like them. Children can access them throughout the day and they are filled with photographs and examples of learning. Children will look through them finding photographs of their special people and share them with others often.

LOCAL COMMUNITY

As children are settled, we widen their circle further to our local community. Through trips to the shops and looking at bus and Tube routes we often find out children have extensive knowledge about the world beyond the school gate. Whether it be Mark at the fruit and veg stall who sells them their favourite apples, the fact that they need to get the District Line to Cannon Street to get to their Auntie Frida’s office, or that Globe Primary School where their brother goes is ‘just around the corner’.

Pre-pandemic, we would involve the children in all the shopping for the school. ‘Shopper of the Week’ was a systematic and very effective learning experience where children would write the shopping lists needed for school for the week, go to the office to collect the money and then set about visiting our local shops – this is one of the benefits of being situated adjacent to a 1960s precinct. Children would be able to share their knowledge about the shops, people and public transport routes as they shopped. The process would continue as they returned to school, carrying the shopping in their backpacks and hand in the receipts to the office, signing off the forms themselves! Local trips are a hugely valuable resource, dependent on the size and staffing levels of your setting.

LEARNING ABOUT NATURE

We are so lucky to have a beautiful, large and mature garden which means we have flora and fauna aplenty to support learning. We follow the seasons and have a growing project in our allotment. This means children are busily engaged throughout the year clearing, planting, watering, tending, harvesting and enjoying produce. They also use this space to observe wildlife: insects, birds, amphibians, rodents (sometimes!), squirrels, cats and foxes. Children love to observe and use information books to label and find out more.

Whether it’s Halloween potions in the mud kitchen or sweeping leaves to clear a path for the bikes, there are endless opportunities for learning about nature. As I type, I can smell potatoes children harvested being baked in a fire bowl in the garden.

RESEARCH PROJECTS

As children make rapid and sustained progress, they develop a sense of agency. We support children to engage in research projects about things they love. Last term, children were involved in investigating spiders, why lions have manes, the moon and different types of bread they could bake. All these ideas came from the children and they were enabled by sensitive adults to use the resources in school.

A side note: we are mindful when it comes to technology. We have two iPads that are occasionally used with an adult to research. Other than that, books are used to find information.

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