Learning and Play at Neilsland & Earnock Local Nature Reserve
Ten educators from early learning and childcare settings and primary schools within walking distance of Neilsland and Earnock Local Nature Reserve (LNR) have been working with Eòlas Outdoor Learning (Eòlas), funded by NatureScot, to learn about the LNR; feel comfortable there; and develop the knowledge, skills and confidence to regularly take their learners there for learning and play.
Each educator was then expected to take their learners to the LNR. Eòlas offered bespoke support to facilitate this, giving educators the choice between having Eòlas lead a session that they would mainly observe, or alternatively, the educator could deliver the session themselves with Eòlas in attendance to offer guidance and mainly observe. All 10 educators chose the first option, however in practice, all educators became increasingly confident and more involved as the session progressed - the support effectively becoming a mix of both options.
"A huge thank you for providing the training. My confidence and enthusiasm for outdoor learning have grown so much. The children have absolutely loved our woodlands sessions. Seeing them thrive in the outdoors is so inspiring."
All establishments then visited the LNR again at least once without Eòlas support. Some visited numerous times: Hollandbush Nursery held weekly ‘Woodland Warrior’ sessions; St Mark’s Primary and Nursery named their regular visits ‘Welly Wednesdays’; and St Elizabeth’s Primary and Nursery planned a 6 week programme of visits to support transition from nursery to P1.
“After we went to the Nature Reserve as a class I went with my family. I wanted to show them that we could do something else instead of being on our screens at the weekend. My Dad tried to make a journey stick. He used glow in the dark string, now we call them 'glow sticks'!”
Key to the success of this work was the partnership approach, with collaboration among the South Lanarkshire Council (SLC) Education Department; SLC Communities and Greenspace Team; NatureScot and Eòlas. The follow up support for educators provided by Eòlas was key in helping educators apply the professional learning to their practice.
Recommendations from our Learning in Local Greenspace project included providing support to educators for longer to increase the likelihood they will continue to use local greenspaces for learning and teaching. Our recent research also highlighted this need, recommending 10 professional learning experiences per educator to ensure they feel confident to deliver learning outdoors.
Mindful of these recommendations, we have secured funding to give these staff from establishments near Neilsland and Earnock LNR the opportunity to hone their skills over the next academic year and embed use of the LNR in their practice, or for additional colleagues to get involved.