Title: Little Moo Moos Outdoor Playschool: Farmer Rory’s Tractor (Learning Story).
Catherine Dwyer, ECEC professional. Playschool owner and Manager, Little Moo Moos Outdoor Playschool. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Little Moo- Moos Playschool is located on a working dairy farm in St. Margaret’s. The playschool utilizes its unique setting and embodies a play- based learning approach. Children spend as much time outdoors as possible. The playschool currently houses a playground, a hay barn and a byre where children can view the cows in the parlour.
Little Moo Moos is located is a rural farming community with a lot of children either coming from farming backgrounds or very interested in the outdoors. Parents often approach the playschool that are themselves from farming backgrounds and have now relocated to Dublin – they are hoping that by coming here their children can experience a little bit of their own childhood experience. The inspiration behind the tractor garden came from the children themselves. Whilst outside during free play the children showed a keen and inquisitive interest in Farmer Rory and what work he was doing. They wanted a go in the ‘big tractor’ and would watch Rory farming in the next field. We began to observe the children imitate Rory and in the sand pit they were pretending to plough the sand with their wheelbarrows.
Rory set about doing so by visiting tractor graveyards near and far with his brother and son. The children were able to see the tractor being prepared at each stage and greatly appreciated the finished result. In the meantime, each week a photo of the construction was sent home to each parent and they were asked with their child to guess what Rory was building. This allowed parents to be involved in the process with their children. The ‘Real Tractor’ was the talk of the playground and we like to think this was an invaluable life lesson for each child too- the value of hard work and teamwork.
Rory liaised with playschool staff to assure the tractor garden area would offer choice and cater all children’s interests with a special consideration for children with additional needs. The ‘Real Tractor’ lives in the Tractor Garden. The Tractor was put together seeking to engage each and every child interest. There are seats in the wheels, they are several hidey pokey places, there is a crawling tunnel between the two front wheels and three slides coming from the back which are is designed to look like a trailer. This is in addition to the ‘cab’ which has a real tractor seat, a dashboard, steering wheel and gearstick. The ‘Cab’ has been adapted with additional seats out the back to allow inclusive play. The clear curtains that children have to walk through to get into the climbing frame are the same curtains that are used in the milking parlour the cows walk through. There is lots of choice, so the tractor garden caters for all children and for children with additional needs we feel the tractor garden provides a natural sensory experience which meets their needs and doesn’t require them to leave their class.
Title: Kildare County Childcare Committees (KCCC) Focus on Outdoor Play 2018.
Fidelma Martin: Development Officer, KCCC, email@example.com
The authors recent return to Higher Education reignited an interest in the use of outdoor play in early years care and education. Identifying time and space are crucial to all learning experiences and the outdoor provides powerful time and space influences in satisfying children’s desire for free play (Bento and Dias, 2017).
At a time of increased levels of child obesity and mental health issues, outdoor experiences at the most basic level, children’s physical fitness, bone growth, and immune systems benefit from exposure to sunlight, natural elements and fresh air (Dyment and Bell, 2008). Green spaces, freedom, choice, physical and social play all contribute to positive emotional and mental health (Gray, 2011) as well as greater attention levels and well-being (Martensson et al., 2009).
The global Outdoor Classroom Day, Project Dirt, supported by Unilever as part of their Dirt is Good movement, presented an opportunity to highlight the strategies, learning experiences and materials that Kildare Early Years Services use to engage in and develop outdoor play. The objective was to promote the positive impact of outdoor play for children and adults, not just as an “add-on” time, but rather as a normal experience, that is available freely throughout the day.
Kildare County Childcare Committee (KCCC) invited and encouraged 214 early years services in Co. Kildare to celebrate outdoor learning and play by participating in the Outdoor Classroom Day on the 17th May 2018. Many services responded to the call and three services agreed to share their experiences and provide feedback to KCCC.
The KCCC Information Officer, visited two of the services on the day, to participate in, observe the fun and take some inspiring photos. The third service forwarded photos individually and all three services provided their learning feedback to KCCC. KCCC used these photographs and feedback to produce a serious of four articles with video presentations of the children’s experiences through photo galleries for sharing with all early year’s providers in Co. Kildare.
The articles allowed others to read about each service’s experience and discover their passion, ethos and value for outdoor play as essential for children. The project also highlighted the following:
• The size and space available outdoors can be overcome with so many simple and inexpensive innovative practical ideas
• The amount of relevant learning and developmental materials do not diminish the importance of genuine motivating interactions between children and adults and children and children
• It was also apparent that there are no indoors experiences and activities that cannot be replicated outside and the simple but extraordinary impact of nature on children is astounding.
It is hoped that KCCC will continue to support early years services engagement with authentic and everyday outdoor play and will use the annual Outdoor Classroom Day to act as a catalyst for more time outdoors every day for children. This will also provide services with the opportunity to celebrate what they are already doing and inspire other services to help build a movement that gets children outdoors to play and learn every day.