We are looking forward to the International Conference titled "Outdoors, Indoors, Planning with Children" presented by Mindstretchers at The Famous grouse Experience in Crieff.
We were met in the car park by Logan, Claire and Anders greeted us at the door and after a cup of coffee Claire welcomed us as well as the international speakers to the event.
First speaker was Claire with her presentation on risk titled "Unwrapping" where she looked at risk inside, outside and beyond. Claire's focus was not only on physical risk but emotional risk as well. She defined the difference between Hazard and Risk and emphasised that we should not remove all challenge from children's environments as this would lead to children seeking inappropriate challenge with possibly a higher risk.
Ruth MacDonald, Head Teacher Echt Primary School in Aberdeenshire, was the next speaker with her presentation called "Impact of Consultation with Children throughout the school." Ruth has made numerous large changes in the school since she took on her role including creating a new modern environment. She shared information about the day to day routines in this small rural school with some delightful stories about the children she works with. The school uses Floorbooks from Nursery through to Primary 7 and she mentioned the engagement and depth of learning in all year groups through this methodology. There is a strong emphasis on community and the children attend Forest school once a fortnight for the day. Echt Primary also uses various forms of IT including the use of Blogs for children and staff. After the presentation there was a lot of interest in her Floorbooks and her work with the older children.
After lunch Anders Farstad from Norway presented " What did you Learn in Nature Today (dear little Boy of mine)". His keynote was about using nature as the arena for active learning and included a section on the importance of gender role models. Anders is a lecturer and the owner of 3 Nature Kindergartens in Norway. He has worked in this role for 24 years and currently there are 170 children aged from 1 to 5 years and 43 employees. His centres are open from 7.30am until 7.30pm. In his presentation he stated that the best way of learning is in doing it, that children should not be protected too much and that it is the adult's duty to children to ensure good relations to the natural environment as is the traditional Norwegian way. Anders compared Nature Kindergartens with other Kindergartens and stated that Nature Kindergarten gives us a new review on what is normal behaviour. He also shared with us his strong belief in the importance of men in early childhood.
Claire then welcomed and introduced her senior trainer, Kate Hookham. She welcomed Elke Grassnick, Fernanda Gillert and colleague from the International School of Dusseldorf, Germany, who presented their session titled "The Impact of Outdoor Learning in ISD". Elke shared information about the school and the curriculum with us as well as detailing the changes they have made to create a high quality outdoor learning environment for the children. Fernanda is the English teacher for year one and she talked about the benefits she experienced for her children with EAL - "children feel safe outside and are quicker to verbalise" and "I learnt from my students to love the outdoors", "children expressed themselves more efficiently".
Gifts were presented to the speakers on behalf of AISWA by Derek Nicholls and Wendy Gorman. Kate Hookham presented a short outdoor session on risk and experiential Benefit Risk Assessing to some delegates while others enjoyed a whiskey tasting tour of the distillery.
A special thank you must go to the people behind the scenes who organised and created such a welcoming presence including Sabine Mackenzie, Andy Warden and Dannie Ramsay.