Nursery World Awards 2013: Initiatives - Enabling Environments

Winner: Woodland House Nursery, Bristol

The idea of launching a beach school came from nursery director Rebecca Clevett's numerous fun trips to nearby Severn Beach with her son.

She was always amazed at how much he thrived from the visits and how keen he was to return and continue various projects.

Christine James was appointed as beach school co-ordinator, supported by training funding from Bristol City Council, and the initiative was launched in June 2012. 'People assume that we are not able to access a beach in the Bristol area. Although it may not be a typical Cornish sandy beach surrounded with rock pools, it still offers a huge variety of learning opportunities that satisfy a multitude of schemes and children's imagination and creativity,' says Christine.

The activities include making mud pies and sand castles, mark making in mud and sand, collecting treasure along the shoreline and transforming these finds into sculptures back at the nursery, toasting marshmallows over a raised fire, using a Kelly kettle to heat drinking chocolate, and collecting and counting pebbles. The children can also experience running free and exploring. Even travelling to and from the beach is fun.

Up to 20 children go to the beach at any one time for a series of weekly sessions run throughout the year. Back at the nursery, they reflect on their experiences and plan what they want to do and take with them the following week. Christine adds, 'Watching how the children learn on the beach clearly demonstrates the three different characteristics of learning and this has helped me enhance my knowledge of the EYFS and get to grips with the changes that were put in place in September 2012.'

The beach school's motto is, 'Our memories of the beach will linger on, long after our footprints in the sand are gone.'


Highly commended

Chad Varah Primary School, Lincoln

The Foundation Stage of Chad Varah Primary School, situated in a deprived area, consists of three classes of 30. They are taught in three separate classrooms. Over last year's summer holidays the classrooms were remodelled to form an open-plan learning environment. Now children can take control of their own learning, exploring the seven learning centre zones in groups with their key person or individually.

Droitwich Spa Nursery and Kindergarten, Worcestershire

Practitioners have carefully created an environment that supports children's sustained shared thinking. The pre-school unit has been reorganised to facilitate a 'free-flow' system with areas evolving to reflect the children's interests and ideas. Staff note that the redeveloped environment has led to children growing in self confidence, learning to take risks and become leaders.

Free Rangers Forest School Nursery, Midsomer Norton, Bath

Cows and acres of crops have evolved into giggling children with muddy knees at Free Rangers Forest School Nursery, based on a farm. The development of the 57-place school by sisters Jayne Morris and Charlotte Lucas has breathed life into tired farm buildings that have been in the family for three generations. The children and practitioners have made the farm their own and created a gem of a learning environment.


Finalists

Barfield School Nursery, Farnham, Surrey

kidsunlimited, Maidstone, Kent

Rainbow Bicester, Oxfordshire

St Paul's Nursery School, York


Criterion

Open to early years settings that have developed elements of their provision to create stimulating, child-centred learning environments in line with the principles of the EYFS.

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