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Packed with inspiration, these workshops will help you to create an ideal learning environment - indoors or out. Dan Levy gives a taste of what's on offer The Special Nature of the Outdoors in the Early Years (Friday 6 May, 12.30pm)

Packed with inspiration, these workshops will help you to create an ideal learning environment - indoors or out. Dan Levy gives a taste of what's on offer

The Special Nature of the Outdoors in the Early Years (Friday 6 May, 12.30pm)

Julie Mountain and Jan White, Learning Through Landscapes

'Children relate to the outdoors very strongly and it's an excellent environment for their wellbeing, learning and development,' says Jan White.

The seminar aims to help practitioners to 'unlock the special nature of the outdoors' at your nursery. Jan and Julie will provide a number of interactive ways to ensure that your outdoor areas are equipped to enhance learning. You will gain an understanding of why the outdoors is special, what it offers children that the indoors does not, what it is about the outdoor environment that you should capture, and how to ensure that your outdoors area complements indoor learning spaces. 'We know how very effective the outdoors is; we help people improve their provision and plan their curriculum so as to use it most effectively,' says Jan.

Creating Space for Children (Friday 6 May, 2pm)

Stephen King and Martin Rimes, Community Playthings

The environment in which we live can have a significant effect on our mood and attitude. We all appreciate bright and agreeable working conditions, and this is true of children too. 'The environment can do a tremendous amount to a person unknowingly, even though the person doesn't realise why it feels good,' says Martin Rimes. 'A pub, for example, is made to be very comfortable, to keep you there as long as possible,' he says.

'If we can do this kind of thing to a child's environment then we can make a great deal of difference to their behaviour and capacity to learn.' This seminar will teach you to create the ideal environment and enhance the mood and feel of the children's learning space, so you can provide a classroom that is most conducive to their learning.

Phonological Awareness: The Launchpad to Language and Literacy? (Friday 6 May, 2pm)

Maggie Johnson, speech and language therapist

'The national curriculum recognises that phonological awareness plays an important part in literacy, and that's great,' says Maggie Johnson. 'But my concern is that the curriculum does not include the earlier stages that underpin both language and literacy development. With so much emphasis on phonics we are scaring off children who are not yet ready to think about words in terms of individual sounds.'

Here she will talk about the nature of phonological awareness and provide practical ways to develop the essential listening and sequencing skills that it involves.

From Mark Making to Early Writing (Friday 6 May, 3.30pm)

Penny Tassoni, education consultant, author and trainer

'The focus of the seminar will be about helping children to see themselves as writers, helping them feel confident and also providing ideas for practitioners about ways in which we can make early mark-making fun and appealing for the young child,' says Penny Tassoni. Even the very young experience a strong urge to make their mark and try to communicate through writing, as evidenced by babies who will play with their food, making circular patterns in their dinner - or anything else spilt in front of them! Gradually such scribbles and swirls progress and writing develops.

'We will be looking at ways in which we can help children to make that progression,' Penny adds. 'We want children to be excited by writing so that they become interested and passionate writers. I think this is essential because writing is a life skill, it is non-optional, but furthermore we want children to adore it.'

Beyond a Good Rapport: How to Work in Real Partnership with Parents and Carers (Friday 6 May, 3.30pm)

Miranda Walker, ABC Educational Services

An open and honest relationship with the parents and carers of the children in your nursery can make a real difference to the education and care you provide. 'Most settings have a positive rapport with parents while they are dropping off the children, but it's not always so easy to go beyond that and really work in partnership with them,' says Miranda Walker. 'We are going to be focusing on how you can go that bit further, so that you are able to involve them in a positive way.'

Such relationships are not just to the parents' benefit. 'It really helps children to settle when they feel that there's a good relationship there.

Also the better staff are able to communicate with the parents, the more they can find out the things that they need to know.'

This seminar will help you promote openness and easy communication with parents and carers, to facilitate better conditions for them, their children and yourself.

Understanding and Supporting the Development of Children's Self Esteem (Saturday 7 May, 10.30am)

Jennie Lindon, child psychologist, consultant and author

Self-esteem is an important part of a child's character and upbringing, and early years settings are a vital place to ensure good practice to support it. 'The main idea of this workshop is to give the people who attend some concept of what self-esteem means,' says Jennie Lindon.

'I start by looking at what is meant by the term: how we support it and what is good practice, and also the importance of self-esteem in building a positive disposition to learn.' Carers have a responsibility to strike a balance between positive reinforcement and realistic reactions to a child's behaviour, Jennie says. 'We have quite a lot of literature suggesting that building up children's self-esteem means telling them that they are fantastic all the time and setting no boundaries for their behaviour. I explore how you can build a strong sense of self and self-confidence in children and still have a sensible approach to their behaviour.'

Using Art to Inspire and Create (Saturday 7 May, 12noon)

Alice Sharp and Brendan McKenna, Experiential Play

This engaging seminar will show you how to use art to encourage children's creativity. 'It is really important that we encourage children to use their imagination,' says Alice Sharp. 'When we're out and about in nursery centres we find that many children aren't having their imagination and creativity stimulated as well as they could be. So we encourage the use of art in all its forms, not just visual art such as painting, but movement, architecture, pottery and jewellery making.'

This seminar will promote a more open and varied approach to art in early years settings. 'It is not just about adults saying, "We want you to do a piece of artwork today and this is what we hope the outcome will be."

Rather it is to plant a seed in the children and allow them to imagine something that they want to create. Everything can become art and be used for stimulating children creatively.'

The G-Mex Centre, Manchester, 6-7 May 2005

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