Friday, 22 July 2011

The Great Outdoors with Mick Conway

We are fortunate to be involved in a Woodland Schools Project which has been ongoing in our school for almost 6 years now.  Mick was the instigator of the project when he first contacted me in his role as educator at Roe Valley Country Park in Limavady.

This is Mick, an experienced teacher and outdoor educator who visits many schools in the area to inspire children and educate them about the Great Outdoors. He visits our nursery school each year in the Autumn when he brings a variety of animals along - including a squirrrel, fox, badger, hare, hedgehog and otter. Mick explains clearly and simply about the animals, where they live, how they survive and what they eat. Most of the children listen attentively as he talks and respond accurately to his questions.   Then he introduces role play where some of the children dramatise specific animals - a mouse being pursued by an owl and later a hedgehog curling up in a ball. 
Mick chooses a child to be a little mouse
We then follow up by bringing each of our four classes on visits to the special area at Roe Valley country park which has been set aside for the project. 
Our aim is to 

Give ownership of the woods to the children and the wider community

Provide the children with an area in which they can explore, play and learn in a positive, fun way.

Give children opportunities to make choices, take risks and develop life-long skills

Provide a place for developing an understanding and appreciation of their environment and fostering in them the desire to care for it.

Our parent volunteers are invaluable as without their help the visits would be impossible.  We try to visit the park twice each term although sometimes this is impossible due to frosty, icy roads that are not gritted.   As with all activities in the nursery school, risk assessment and the safety of the children are paramount!

The main focus of the visits is to promote the children's wellbeing, develop their ability to take risks, their sense of adventure and their awareness of the countryside around us. Not only do we observe their response to the journey etc but we encourage the quieter and more reluctant children to participate in activities like searching for minibeasts, climbing trees, playing in mud, picking leaves etc.

Each year the classes return to the forest for a Teddybear's picnic which is a really excellent way to bring the school year to a close.  Our parents have the opportunity to come along and learn with their children about the woods, the animals and see exactly how the children have gained an understanding and knowledge about the cycle of life in the woods.

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