A small group of staff from East & Midlothian went to visit the schools featured in this short video at the invite of Grounds for Learning. The group included a teacher from Whitecraig Primary, and the team leader for a pre-school centre managed by Midlothian Surestart.. Whitecraig and two Suretart centres are now working with GfL to introduce natural loose materials into the playground. A P1 teacher at Wallyford primary is also working with a local artist to find ways of using different materials in their playground area – this time with an emphasis on recycled materials. Excited to see how these projects develop and hope they prove to be exemplars for other schools and pre-school centres in the use of loose materials for more imaginative play opportunities.
Joining the Dots – A better start for Scotland’s children
AN INDEPENDENT REPORT BY PROFESSOR SUSAN DEACON
?Susan Deacon’s report to the Scottish Government is now available online at :-
??Just finished reading the report.
In reflecting on how I might introduce the report, and my reaction to it, for this post; I decided that I could draw on the learning of the amazing authors in P2P at Sanderson’s Wynd. The children (who have published an e-book on Amazon) have been finding interesting words, including ‘wow’ words, as part of their literacy work. Here are my wow words for Susan’s report:-
but definitely not pallid
‘Every cloud has a silver lining’
Although the snow has made life difficult for grown-ups – particularly those that need to travel, it can be an incredible opportunity for play
Whitecraig primary have been making the most of it – linking it to reading and learning about things like hibernation. The photo above is from the Whitecraig edubuzz page – it truly is a King of Snowmen.
The Creative Star learning company has produced a resource pack with loads of great ideas for using the snow as a learning tool.
In the development of Support from the Start and forest school in particular I have had a number of opportunities to talk to teaching staff about why I think regular outdoor play / learning can make a difference for children’s health and well being. Each time I perform a little experiment by asking those present to close their eyes and think about a happy memory from their childhood. After a few moments I ask people to open their eyes and put up their hand if the memory involved being out of doors. So far each time this experiment has resulted in the vast majority (at least 90%) raising their hands.
Whether its fear of traffic, fear of strangers or the attraction of electronic games children seem to be spending more and more time in doors. So its wonderful to see nurseries and schools like Whitecraig taking the opportunity of a playground transformed by snow into a whole new world for play and learning. There are reasons not to play outdoors in snowy conditions – its cold, slippy, wet, it takes time to organise. There a lots of reason for, which could be listed – but I think one overwhelming one is that it is fun and what is learnt whilst having fun tends to stick.
If we look back as adults and find that our happy childhood memories are often linked to being outdoors, then surelywe should be providing this for our own children. My experience of schools and nurseries as a parent (in more than one Local Authority area) is that children rarely get to experience natural environments, and many school playgrounds are largely organised for the priorities of adults in the school not the children.
Scotland could easily be a nation (like Sweden) where being outdoors and learning in a natural environment is a normal part of the school / nursery timetable – not as currently where it all too often is only a special event / treat. We have some of the most rich, varied and exciting environments in the world – and for most of us its available on our doorsteps. Even the big cities have wonderful spaces (managed but natural) thanks largely to the legacy of those Victorian planners who recognised the benefits to physical and spirtual health of access to green space.
All we need is a change of ‘mind set’ – as well as good waterproofs and lots of layers.
Early year’s dental health is one focus for Support from the Start in Whitecraig and Wallyford. Part of this focus is to examine the current and ongoing dental health status of all three year olds in these areas.
Following detailed dental inspections carried out earlier this year on 3-year-old children seen at Whitecraig and Wallyford 33% of children were found to be affected by tooth decay.
These findings confirm that, although the majority of children have as yet no experience of caries, for some children the presence of dental caries is already well-established by the time they reach three years of age.
What is being done locally to address this issue?
- Local nurseries are getting an extra morning each for dental health promotion with new materials (see example above) and information packs for children and parents available.
- Tooth varnishing has been rolled out in the targeted areas allied with encouragement to enrol with a dental practice.
- There is additional dental health promotion work underway in playgroups and toddler groups and tooth brushing schemes in P1&P2
- Local dental practices are being encouraged to become Childsmile practices.
As you are aware Whitecraig is one of the communities that is part of the Support from the Start process in East Lothian, which aims to improve health outcomes by focusing on intervention in the early years and support for parents.
As part of this process we have begun a ‘civic conversation’ on health and well being in Whitecraig with an event that looked at the health needs of early years families from a parents perspective (see enclosed report). The output of this event was the identification of two themes by the parents that were present – play, and access to services.
I would like to invite you to attend a short meeting to discuss how we can take the ‘civic conversation’ to the next level in Whitecraig by focusing on the play issue in particular. This meeting would be to look at how parents in Whitecraig can be engaged in play as a health issue.
If you are happy to participate in this I would be grateful if you could indicate which of the following dates you could make.
Friday 12th June am
Monday 22nd June pm
Tuesday July 7th