IMG_8734On Tuesday I attended the latest meeting of the national Landscapes for Early Childhood Network, at the Earlham Early Years Centre in Norwich. The Network, which I joined last year, brings together  professionals working with young children and those concerned with designing and creating play and other landscapes for them. It provides a powerful creative forum for discussion of ideas and approaches to early years spaces and activities and also gives a wonderful opportunity to visit excellent examples of these landscapes, sometimes in schools or nurseries, sometimes in public open spaces.

I was pleased to speak at this week’s meeting on the topic of ‘learning for sustainability’ (or as I termed it ‘Nurturing Nurture’) – how we encourage children (and adults for that matter), to understand the way the world works, how mankind’s activities affect this and what can be done to live more sustainably. I talked about the word ‘sustainability’ and how this has become rather diluted and misused in modern language, but is really about maintaining an ecological balance in the world where non renewable natural resources are used (and reused) carefully, if at all.

I featured some of my own work in this field, especially working with youngsters in school gardening activities as well as creating play landscapes and other spaces which inspire younger children to develop their curiosity, imagination and understanding of the natural world. I focused in particular on the importance of engaging children in food growing as a way of contributing towards food production and security.

Presentations were also given by other network members on their work, but the main event was to see and hear about the very special ‘garden’  at the Earlham EYC. Felicity Thomas, the original head teacher and her colleagues gave us a wonderful guided tour of the garden (it was great seeing the children busy in it as we went around), and told us about why and how it had been developed. The brief for the original design (which has since evolved over the last ten years), is worth sharing, so I repeat it below along with a slide show of pictures I took (which for security reasons do not include the children).  I hope you enjoy them.

‘To create a unique environment for children and others using the Centre which demonstrates sustainable principles in practice, where children can:-

  • access a varied topography in scale, contour and texture, incorporating dramatic changes in level, big mounds, large areas of sand in which to prospect.

  • plant, grow, harvest and cook food.

  • hide and not be seen, find and create places for refuge and reflection; read, share stories and use their imagination.

  • go on expeditions and journeys; develop an understanding of positional words by having places to be in, under, behind, below and above.

  • experience and understand the elements; interact with moving water, solar power and wind, be protected from the sun.

  • explore their senses through plants, materials and elements which provide a myriad of colour, shape, sound, texture and smell.

  • independently access equipment and loose materials.

  • learn to care and take responsibility for themselves, each other and the environment.

  • be happy, be fulfilled.’

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Old School Gardener

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