Lighting the Fire - a new resource to enrich outdoor play and learning

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A booklet and DVD - Lighting the Fire, hands-on investigation, play and outdoor learning in primary education - was compiled with the help of early years consultant Wendy Scott and includes a foreword by Mick Waters, professor of education and president of the Curriculum Foundation.

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The booklet makes the case for extending a play-based curriculum beyond the reception year, and includes examples of schools in England who have rejected the emphasis on formal education in the primary years.

Accompanying the main text are quotes from academics, children and their teachers as well as some 35 photographs illustrating hands-on play and learning.

Also beautifully illustrated, with a further 44 pictures, is the training DVD whose purpose is to help primary school teachers bring education alive. It prompts practitioners to reflect on the current debate over ‘school readiness’, saying: ‘Rather than enquiring whether children are ready for school, we should consider "Is our school ready for children?"’

Among the other themes up for discussion are: curiosity, imagination, self-expression and motivation. Play is subdivided into categories including communication, action, well-being, the teacher’s role in play and play materials. The DVD also makes important observations about the links between block play and numeracy and literacy, advising practitioners to ‘think of blockplay as a "language" in which children weave elaborate narratives. Blockplay is a concrete form of symbolism; written language is an abstract one. Children must have opportunity to express ideas in concrete ways before advancing to complex forms of communication.’

Other areas given particular attention are: hands-on learning, outdoor learning (including nature, risk, well-being and plants) and the importance of creativity, which is examined in its broadest sense. Practitioners are reminded: ‘Through creative innovation, children develop divergent ways of thinking,’ and in conclusion, notes the guide: ‘If children’s school experience is permeated with play, hands-on investigation and outdoor learning, they will have a rich store of memories to carry into life.’

Lighting the Fire can be downloaded at www.communityplaythings.co.uk/resources/request-literature.html The training DVD is available free on request for head teachers, Foundation Stage co-ordinators, trainers and advisers. Call 0800 387 457 to request a copy.

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