This time last week if you'd mentioned "half hitch" or "overhand bend" in the staff room at Rachel Keeling, you might have been met by a sea of blank faces. Not so this week. We have been on a learning journey with our children.
As our steep, grassy hillock was reduced to more of a suggestion of a hill and covered in artificial grass to ensure all year round access, we have noticed many more children using the area. It has become part of the learning environment, where children are stopping and using it, rather passing over it onto somewhere else. Yoga, gymnastics, lying down and relaxing with a book and friends has also moved onto some learning that Robert Baden-Powell would have been proud of. In true Scouting style we have been looking at tying knots: as part of developing children's concentration and fine motor skills, as well as problem solving, communication and collaboration.
Children and staff began by organising themselves a den building trolley, sorting and labelling the resources. Next they explored the different ropes and fastenings we had. Children and adults learned together how to master a simple knot (an overhand knot) and a half hitch: learning terms such as 'the working end' and 'standing end' of a rope, 'loops', 'bights'. Also working together to choose the right knot for the purpose - discussing whether it is to tie a rope to an object or to another rope!
Children then used their new found skills to create a pulley system to transport resources between the trees. Children have begun to use the area with increased independence, supporting each other, negotiating and communicating.
Young children are capable of great things!
This morning, despite the icy winds, we were joined by many of our families for our termly Bike It Breakfast. We were warm and cosy after our scooting and cycling to school and enjoyed bagels, fresh fruit, yoghurt, milk, apples juice and many strong coffees together! Children, parents, siblings and staff enjoyed sharing talk, laughter and cinnamon bagels. At Rachel Keeling we have staff, families and children who cycle and scoot to school and work. We have seen the benefit of our Bike It status in developing our cycling scheme with children. Many of our children can now ride the balance bikes proficiently and some can use the two wheeler pedal bikes as well. We are seeing larger numbers of children who are able to master this life-enhancing skill and we will continue to invest in the provision. Many families are now borrowing our bicycles and helmets at the weekend. It was a wonderful celebration and of course all families are welcome to join us for our Breakfast Club every day!
Thanks to Sustrans and TfL for donating our bagels, fruit and yoghurt.
At Rachel Keeling we recognise the importance of our environment and on a daily basis we reflect and modify it to ensure it provides our children with the richest opportunities for learning.
During the Spring Term we have had some exciting developments in our garden: our pond area has been opened up!
Previously we had a sunken pond area which was gated off, whilst offering exciting learning, due to health and safety, it was only accessible with an adult. We reflected on this and wanted the area to become part of our on-going Forest School provision which we have embedded in our daily practice. As a result we worked with our talented landscaper, Gavin, and raised our pond to above ground height, removed the fencing and created a seating area around the edge. Our creatures that were living there (small fish, tadpoles, frogs, newt and water snails) were carefully transferred over and Gavin included an amphibian ramp for the newts and frogs to use to access the water. The area is truly accessible to all children, staff and visitors with step-free access. Children have been using the area with and without adults to explore: observing, drawing up rules for use, pond dipping and relaxing.
Of course we only remove the safety grill when an adult is learning with the children.
The area is a busy but peaceful space for learning and children have been sustaining concentration over the past two days. The photographs evidence just some of the learning this week so far.