Day 3 Wingate Children’s Centre community nursery school, CO. Durham, England
Today we sat at breakfast and watched the news - roads closed, houses evacuated and rivers flooding ...all this in the area we were wanting to go to today! Glen, our friendly coach driver, made numerous phone calls and we set off at 8.15am to join the queue of vehicles trying to avoid the detours.
At Wingate Children’s centre we were warmly received by Paddy Beels, Headteacher of the centre. I have known Paddy for many years, such a very special lady, and I was delighted to meet up with her again (and she still drives the same green beetle with pink flowers!!). We gathered at the training base for introductions, information and of course coffee and were then free to join the staff and children in their daily opportunities.
What did we see? Real free range chickens and children! The children were digging in the garden with metal spades, closely watched and followed by the chickens who found some delicacies in the upturned soil. Children around a real fire with Glynis Riseley having conversations about fire, keeping themselves and the environment safe, singing songs ....this was a big draw to many of the adults in our team! Children having the time and space to quietly reflect, to climb and run around with purpose, to help and support each other in problem solving. We saw adults who were there and did not ‘interfere‘ but supported children’s explorations. Indoors we saw children exploring clay using all their senses - totally immersed in what they were doing. A little girl who was feeling a bit unsettled nurturing and feeding the guinea-pig. Children doing their own baking - I must admit that I did not think the creative biscuits they were making would ever make it to the oven! Children quietly reading books or asking an adult to read them a story, others building large structures with the building blocks. Role play in various forms - high heel shoes that were coveted by some of the adults, home corner with REAL cabbages, potatoes and carrots (some with bites taken out of them). Singalong with Becky Wood and her concertina - Stuart couldn’t resist and led a catchy song too! Lunch for the children was served at beautifully set adult height tables - such respect for the children.
The children were fully engaged in what they were doing, adults were unobtrusive and we were impressed that the children had only been coming to the nursery for a week - they were all remarkably settled and happy in their play. The adults spoke to the children with quiet respect and structured or extended learning opportunities.
After a delicious lunch Paddy and Beckie told us a bit more about the history of Wingate and shared their values and beliefs with us. There is a great respect for children and childhood, parents and families are respected and valued and a relationship with the whole community and wider environment is considered very important. Fridays are called Family Friday as families work together - children may take part in forest school, be out in the community or be cooking a meal at the school for the children that are out. Paddy also shared that “we are a family”, “emotions need care”, “detail is important” and many other statements that show the mutual respect and caring all the stakeholders have for each other and the centre.
Many delegates commented on the emotional feelings Wingate Nursery provoked - a real sense of connectedness. Paddy Beels herself radiates warmth and genuine caring - as well as a wicked sense of humour .... Ron and Paddy and clingwrap comes to mind!
Ron and Anne thanked Paddy and her team and presented her with a gift on behalf of the AISWA team, a Koala puppet for the children and an Australian children's book from myself and the InspiredEC team. Thank you Paddy!!
Next we were off to Durham University to meet Dr Christine Merryll, Director of Research and Development, who shared information about Aspect assessment and some of her research on assessment. Elaine and Ron thanked her and presented a gift from AISWA.
We set off on the long journey to Scotland with a short dinner break along the way and were met by Sabine Mackenzie of Mindstretchers at the TwoTrees Hotel in Dunblane. Sabine is responsible for so efficiently organising all the detail of this study visit which of course needed to be celebrated! Thank you Sabine!
Participants of the AISWA Early Childhood Study Tour are on the road visiting early learning centres and forest kindergartens, professional learning workshops and seminars throughout England and Scotland. The purpose of the tour is to provide ECE leaders, an opportunity to share teaching and learning experiences from different backgrounds, exchange ideas for kindergarten set-up risk management, and learning through adventurous play in natural environments.