At Westercraigs Children Learn Through Active Play, Outdoors, Wherever Possible. They play, plan, practise, pretend, talk about, record and review indoors a little too. But the biggest excitement and in depth learning takes place all around in their community. In all weathers, our children, staff & parents experience the awe and wonder of nature. We are working to deliver "Nurture Through Nature". Under this title we aim to do most of our learning outdoors in real time in the real world.
We have excellent Outdoor Learning Spaces which are in use daily in ALL WEATHERS. Every area of our Outdoor Learning Space has evolved from our children's Wish Lists and they have been involved with the planning and development throughout – empowering Westercraigs' children's choice.
But it's not just about what we have on site, it's also that the children are able to go out and engage with their community. At Westercraigs, we take the children out on what we call "Learning Adventures", where they are able to take their learning outdoors, experiencing different environments which include the immediate mix of sandstone 1900s flats & historic Glasgow buildings, 1960's onwards homes, shopping facilities and other community services and into the many parks and green spaces our city provides for its citizens.
Our Next Steps are to expand our nursery service by "building" & operating a Forest School satellite nursery. There are football pitches close by that we have been given connected to the Campus we share with Whitehill Secondary, Golfhill Primary School and Whitehill Swimming Pool. Our current children are responsible for designing every element that is going into it.
At the moment on a Monday and Thursday we have two groups of children. On a Monday we call them the RAP group (Raising Attainment Play group) and they spend the day in the forest with a packed lunch. And then on a Thursday we have the CAP group (the Challenge Attainment group). This provides opportunities that stretch each child's already developed skills set. Each group of children participates for eight weeks then two more groups are formed. Some children move directly from the Rap group to the next timetabled Cap group.
We enjoy visiting farms such as East Yonderton Farm and Arnprior where we do seasonal fruit picking – strawberries, raspberries, pumpkins etc.
Another rich learning adventure children enjoy is travelling on the ferry to Millport to explore the island of Cumbrae. The photo below was early in the year but weather doesn't matter because being on the beach is no run of the mill experience – it's another one of those "Awe and Wonder" learning adventures that stimulates their senses, widens their horizons and builds a real time view of the world beyond their homes.
Every Monday afternoon the children now go into the High School for sessions with the school's "Sports Leaders" who are amazed with what a 3 and 4-year-old can do.
We take the children regularly down to the WASP studio and one of the artists, Steve Richard, who restores historic glass in historic buildingand also creates and teaches how to make art glass. The children usually visit in groups of four with a member of staff and some parents to observe the process. Once they've seen this, they then get to design their own art glass coasters. They've also taken this experience forward to design the windows for Hagrid's House (seen in the painting below) their outdoor classroom in the Nursery garden.
We also have what we call our "Artist in Residence" which began when we'd asked one of the parents, Andrew Fitzpatrick who is an artist to do a painting of the old school to commemorate the nursery having to leave this building back in 2007. Here it is on display in our hallway.
Every child in this painting we can identify. They are all in secondary school now. We asked Andrew to see if he could find a company to make the painting into giclee prints and art cards. These were traded by the children in the Art Shop they set up in the playroom in 2007.
Almost twelve years on, we asked Andrew if he would be able to repeat this creative & enterprising process. He suggested involving a group of children in the actual painting on canvas experience!
The children worked with Andrew to make a personal contribution to the canvas and add to the painting border, depicting outdoor play in their garden at Westercraigs. This gave the children the chance to be mentored by an artist and contribute towards the creative process.
We again commissioned art cards of the painting and the children are selling these in the nursery in their own shop for £5.
Our own Project Manager was delighted to be the children's first customer. In this video you can see them creating their signs, setting up shop and learning how to use the till after their first transaction.
There's a whole list of things the children know they want for the forest school area but it's because they've experienced it elsewhere that they're able to articulate this and be creative in the planning of their new outdoor learning space.
They want more mature trees, they want a proper beach, they want a pond because we took them out to Mackinnon mills in the mini bus and we chose fish to replenish the pond at my house.
They want a zip wire because two weeks ago, Child Development Officers Monica and Scott worked out what to do with a rope and they were trying to string it between two trees. One of the children Sonny suddenly realised the potential for it to be a zip wire, which children and adults co-created.
Through these experiences and opportunities for outdoor learning we are supporting, challenging and building Successful Learners, Effective Contributors, Confident Individuals and Responsible Citizens.
The development of the satellite nursery is on-going. Pete Miller, from GCC Land and Environmental Services, has taken all of the forest school wish list away and he will come back with the plans before Christmas for the children to look at and see if that's what they really want and for them to put more of their ideas into it.
Wasp Studio Parade Artist Winter Fair and Andrew – He will be centring his Art exhibits this year on the collaboration with the children and these will be at the Wasp Studio. We decided on £5 for the price as some of the artists at this fair sell their art cards for £6.99, making our art cards a bargain.
"The children at Westercraigs can get a piece at anyone's door"
Hagrid's House normally costs £8,900 but through the children's on-going collaboration with Caulder's Garden Centre they let us have it for £6,000.
Did you get other organisations/partners involved?
We have collaborated with many organisations to deliver "learning adventures" for the children.
We're the first nursery to be using the Bike Hub up at Alexandra Park, which is to do with all things cycling. Our Play on Pedals qualified staff teach the children how to cycle on balance bikes and then move on to pedal bikes.
In these sessions they are re-purposing the unused bowling greens so that the children are able to fall off safely. This experience has led to one of the other key elements the children want for their forest school – a track all the way around their forest setting where they can do all their bike training and cycle from one adventure space to another. When this is complete we will have our own Play on Pedals training venue for Staff close by for other Early Years establishments to access.
Having taken a group of children to Perth to Scotia Cabins to see the bigger versions of our Hagrid's House they have been able to envisage what exciting opportunities a version with a built in BBQ fire would provide by way of cooking experiences and warm safe place in adverse weather.
Steve Richard Art Glass collaborations with more of our children, parents and staff will also be at the heart of the children's newest colourful windows incorporated into this bothy in our new Forest School.