Steven White, Project co-ordinator at Dunblane Nature Kindergarten, Bertram Nursery Group

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Mr White is travelling to the Hval Gard Barnahage nursery near Oslo this month.

steven-white-interview

Tell us about your trip to Norway.

I'm going to talk about our work with children's learning journeys. It can start from watching a child's fascination with rain water and progressively lead to the forces of water in a running river and, eventually, speed and travel in boats and cars.

In Norway, practitioners are not so familiar with learning journeys and e-journals, where we look at children's progression. We always look to Scandinavia for nature kindergartens and Hval Gard Barnahage has a similar indoor/ outdoor approach.

What changes have you made in the past year in the move to a nature kindergarten?

We consulted staff and parents. Nature kindergartens take forest school skills and look at how to creatively use these in the nursery and the natural environment.

There was already a slide and a climbing frame, but they weren't really used. Children wanted grass, wood chips, slate and pebbles. We're putting in a kinder kitchen - a Scandinavian design - so we can prepare snacks from scratch outside. We also have a forest behind the nursery and a stream.

Before, the nursery was called Hummingbird House. But there are no hummingbirds in Scotland and I wanted to champion where we are, and for parents to know what we do. We now have an Investors in Children accreditation, an Eco-Schools Green Flag award and achieved a Grade 5 in all areas in our recent inspection.

Describe a typical day.

We spend time outside, but we take the learning from indoors to outdoors and back, looking at continuity of learning. Maybe children are stacking blocks indoors and we go and cut wood in the forest and create stacking blocks outside.

At two, children use flint and steel to light fires, encouraging fine motor skills, and gathering and sorting wood, where you can develop an understanding of maths. We encourage children to understand the consequences of their actions - so if the fire goes out we can't bake bread.

We use potato peelers with two-year-olds to carve wood, but in Norway, despite having the same EU regulations on health and safety, they use knives. There are cultural differences, but as children's skill level develops you need to extend learning. So we're hoping when children are three we can move on to knives. If children understand the hazards they will use them appropriately. There is a lot of freedom and choice, but behind that a lot of structure.

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