Edinburgh's first Outdoor Nursery

In2Teaching recently attended the launch of Edinburgh's first Outdoor Nursery. Outdoor Nursery Edinburgh (part of Mother Goose Nursery) delivers its curriculum using the outdoor environment.

Claire Gilfillan, Web Content Editor, GTC Scotland

In2Teaching recently attended the launch of Edinburgh's first Outdoor Nursery. Outdoor Nursery Edinburgh (part of Mother Goose Nursery) delivers its curriculum using the outdoor environment. Every day the children take part in woodland walks, climb trees, build dens and cook over a fire pit. There is also a large secure play area at the back of the nursery that the children use regularly throughout each day. It has areas for growing, planting and digging, sand and water, quiet corners, wildlife watching, drama, physical activities, problem solving, language and literacy, maths, making mud pies and more. This nursery is the first of its kind in Edinburgh and is fully supported by the parents of the children who attend.

Outdoor Nursery Edinburgh (ONE) believes that outdoor learning:

  • Enhances children’s learning experiences
  • Encourages children to learn from and care for the environment
  • Helps children build confidence and self-esteem
  • Improves health and wellbeing, physical and motor skills, language and communication, social skills and team work as well as motivation and concentration

The children are in control at ONE. All of the activities and planning are child led and children are encouraged to evaluate their learning. Most the day takes place outdoors but there is also age appropriate space indoors supporting the development of stages of learning, interaction, communication and exploration. As with all outdoor activities there is an element of risk involved, however the children are taught how to make a risk assessment and deal with any problems that may arise whilst out and about.

During the launch we were given the opportunity to join the children on one of their woodland walks. The children led the way through a housing estate and up the narrow path, completely sheltered from any kind of traffic, to the woods. Once we got to the woods, Fiona McLeod, Minister for Children and Young People, officially opened the outdoor nursery by cutting some ivy along the entrance to the wood.

The nursery workers then led the children into the wood and everyone sat around a fire pit. The nursery manager, Jenny McAllister MBE, lit the fire and the children took it in turns to cook over it. They sang campfire songs and listened to a story. Afterwards they were given the opportunity to have some free play. It wasn’t the warmest of days, but this didn’t faze the children one bit. They were kept busy, and warm, climbing trees, making models out of play doh or spending some quiet time with a book in a little makeshift tent. As you can imagine, by the end of the free play time, the children had definitely worked up an appetite and were ready to head back to nursery for their lunch before doing it all over again in the afternoon!

Jenny McAllister joined Mother Goose Nursery from the Scottish Seabird Centre about a year ago with a wealth of experience in outdoor learning. She has developed the nursery and structured the days so that the majority of learning takes place outdoors. Jenny was awarded an MBE for services to Education in the New Years Honours list and will be collecting this award at the beginning of July. The nursery has also achieved both a bronze and silver Eco award from Eco Schools Scotland and they are currently working towards achieving their Green Flag.

Jenny said: “This should not be seen as an alternative method of childcare and education - it is the most natural way for our children to grow and learn.

“The Scottish Government’s curriculum guidelines state that ‘outdoor learning is an integral part of good practice’. Half an hour in the garden is ok, but we are outdoors as much as possible and that is better. The entire Early Years Curriculum can be met outdoors and that is what we aim to do. Nature provides the best free resources and stimulus for creative learning, critical thinking skills and social development. Our activities are chid initiated which means every day is different and exciting for the staff and the children.”

I spoke to a number of parents who joined their children on the walk and they couldn’t praise the nursery highly enough. All of the children have a great time, learn a lot about nature and the environment and are definitely ready for bed by the time they get home!

It was lovely to experience, first-hand, what is involved in an Outdoor Nursery and the staff and parents are all so enthusiastic and supportive of the benefits that it brings.

As they say at Outdoor Nursery Edinburgh, there is no such thing as bad weather!!

Further information

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