The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS)
At Venture Outdoor Kindergarten, we follow the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) curriculum, which is a requirement for all preschools and nurseries in England. Our practitioners are skillful at facilitating children’s learning rather than directing what and how they will learn. Opportunities for learning in our ever changing outdoor environment go above and beyond the requirements of the EYFS and what is delivered in a conventional preschool or nursery.
The EYFS groups learning in the early years into 7 areas; three primary areas and four specific areas.
- Communication and Language
- Physical Development
- Personal, Social and Emotional Development
- Understanding the World
- Expressive Arts and Design
Characteristics of Effective Learning
The Characteristics of Effective Learning in the Early Years Foundation Stage Curriculum describe how the children learn and are interconnected with the prime and specific areas of learning.
Playing and Exploring
At Venture Outdoor Kindergarten we understand the importance of flexible routines and allow time for uninterrupted play and exploration. Our mindful staff understand the importance of standing back and observing a child who is exploring and noting what interests them. Using this information we plan new experiences based upon individual children’s interests and how they learn. We understand and support children’s need to take risk, try things out and have a go. We work hard to create a supportive emotional environment where everyone feels valued as an individual and comfortable to share their ideas. We are interested in the process rather than the end result.
Finding out and exploring
Children use all their senses to understand the natural world which offers a rich, open ended and multi sensory environment for them to explore. From children’s innate curiosity for the natural world they will construct their own knowledge and understanding by building concepts, testing ideas and finding things out.
Playing with what they know
We understand the importance of play as children use what they already know and understand and use this to combine, refine and explore these ideas in imaginative ways.
Being willing to ‘have a go.’
Children have plenty of opportunities to risk take and risk manage and they can seek challenge through play in an environment where failing is not regarded as a setback but as a learning opportunity.
‘There is no activity children are better prepared for than fantasy play. Nothing is more dependable and risk free, and the dangers are only pretend’ (Paley, 2004:8).
We realise at Venture Kindergarten that in order to concentrate fully children need to be motivated and it is when children are deeply involved in what they are doing that deep learning is taking place. Through our child-led method of teaching we ensure that the children enjoy the personal pleasure of success because the goal will be the child’s and the motivation comes from within. Children are motivated to learn a new skill or to understand a new idea even though it requires considerable effort. We talk to the children about how they do things, their different approaches and ideas and how they have concentrated and solved problems.
Being involved and concentrating
During play and exploration in the outdoor environment the children are making their own choices and they are following their natural curiosity and so become deeply involved.
How children see themselves as learners is important and we realise the importance of ensuring that children do not develop a ‘fixed mindset’ where their self-belief is that their ability cannot be changed. Instead we help them to develop a ‘growth mindset’ where they believe that their abilities can grow and develop. These children love challenge and will keep on trying and find a way around obstacles in order to solve problems. In order to do this we give specific praise and highlight the processes the child is using as they attempt to do something.
Enjoying achieving what they set out to do
From this persistence the children gain great satisfaction as they achieve their own intentions and goals rather than relying upon the approval of others. We use our close observation and knowledge of each child in order to tap into their individual curiosities and interests so that we can carefully scaffold their play and make the goal their own.
Creating and thinking critically
With a large variety of open ended resources to play with children can come up with new ideas, discover connections and find new ways of doing things. With adult support we enhance their ability to think critically and ask questions, making sense of their experiences and developing thought. If we can teach a child to think critically they will be able to figure things out themselves, organise their thoughts, problem solve and come up with new strategies.
Having their own ideas
The opportunity to play in a non-judgmental environment where the resources are flexible and the adult gives the child space, time and choice. The child is given control and within warm and supportive relationships with the adult they are respected and their ideas valued so that they feel safe to take risks with new ideas.
We help children to make connections by modelling open ended thinking showing the children the many possible ways forward. We use photographs to show children ways they have done things in the past and we are careful to allow children to come back to an idea or process the next day rather than always tidying away. We talk through with the children how they have achieved something or solved a problem helping them to understand their own thinking.
Choosing ways to do things
We allow the child to make their own choices and decisions as to how to approach a task rather than following adult instructions. As the children are involved in their self chosen activities they are more likely to want to plan, monitor and change strategy as needed in order to achieve their goal.