At Rachel Keeling Nursery School we have built in time to reflect and evaluate the learning every day as a team. This has enabled us to keep the longer term and bigger picture in mind when thinking about children's learning over time. These discussions we have every day are some of the most useful in thinking about our provision, interactions and environment (although Linda has some of her best ideas whilst ironing!)
Cycling was a whole school focus on our School Development Plan in 2016. We recognised the importance of children developing their balance, coordination and gross motor skills in a variety of contexts - climbing, swinging, running, jumping, dancing as well as cycling. We saw that our children were motivated to use the bikes but recognised our bikes were not very sophisticated (trikes and bikes with stabilisers).
We became a Bike It School (courtesy of Sustrans and TfL) and we purchased some balance and two wheeler pedal bikes as well as helmets. During this time we also visited settings who have high quality cycling in place and supported some of our staff to learn to ride a bicycle. We also had the support of a Bike It liaison officer who came along to work alongside staff and children to teach us effective ways to teach children to develop cycling skills. We have run bicycle maintenance workshops for children and families as well as our termly Bike It Breakfast, where children who cycle or scoot to school come in early for a hearty, healthy breakfast. We have looked at our environment as well: sometimes using the local park to support children who are developing skill on the two wheeler bikes.
All teaching staff have now been involved in delivering cycling and seeing the benefits of a systematic approach to cycling - teaching children skills and giving them time to develop those skills and their confidence as well. Children are independent, can manage sharing bicycles, putting on their helmets. Children are also showing such motivation to sustain interest and persevere in mastering both balance and two wheeler pedal bikes. Currently more than a quarter of our three and four year olds can cycle proficiently on two wheeler pedal bikes. Families borrow the bikes and helmets over weekends and half terms and this has helped to embed physical activity in the lives of some families. Many more children now scoot and cycle to school like Becky!
As many of us prepare to celebrate Christmas, we have been getting ready at nursery too. Children visited the market to buy the Christmas tree (problem solving how to get it back on the trolley). Children helped to decorate the tree and switch the lights on. Some of our families do not celebrate Christmas and most children are able to talk about significant celebrations for their families. Festive cooking has been happening with chocolate crinkle cookies and Christmas playdough. Christmas lunch was celebrated and children pulled crackers (some of them for the first time which was fun!) Christmas songs have been shared and children can often be heard humming 'We Wish you a merry Christmas' whilst using the bathroom! Last week we enjoyed our annual Christmas carols around the campfire in the garden. Many families were able to join us and enjoy the music, singing and percussion by the children. The story of the Nativity has been listened to, with children taking on many different roles and adding their own touches: we had a cowboy, the "D7 donkey", and a scan picture of baby Jesus all making appearances.
We are preparing to say goodbye to some of our friends who have been here a long time. Now they are moving on to Reception Class - we wish them all the best and know they will take their Rachel Keeling Values out into the world and make waves!
Merry Christmas to our friends who are celebrating Christmas and to all our friends, have a wonderful winter break!
The arrival of the freezing weather caused much excitement at Rachel Keeling. The children and staff wrapped up warm and ventured into the garden as they do every day. Although we were not blessed with lots of snow, we made the most of the ice and snowy patches left here. Children explored the ice, gathering it and packing it into parcels. It supported lots of talk and children then used pipettes to add food colouring and see what happened. The results were some beautiful 'crystals' (photographs of which adorn Maria's office now!) Children observed the effect of the dye on the ice and left them overnight. The following morning they had all disappeared, just like the snowmen in the park!
At Rachel Keeling children have many opportunities to develop their mark making skills through a range of meaningful experiences such as shopping, setting up lunches and displaying the menu, noting the fish have been fed, completing registers and leaving notes for each other. We also recognise the importance of children developing skill and confidence in drawing. We encourage children to draw on many scales and in different contexts with a range of media. Recently children have been encouraged to think about their families and people who are significant to them. Some children chose to draw them, drawing representational figures and explaining who they were. Children talked to their friends and shared their drawings. Some children were supported to create frames for their drawings. They measured, fixed and decorated wood using the real tools and displayed their drawings in Sunflower Class.
Coinciding with the announcement of next year's royal wedding, staff and children planned a tea party. Our children are very active all day and even after a hearty lunch we have noticed children are still hungry in the afternoon. The cold weather also increases appetite and our bodies need energy to fuel our investigations across nursery. Regular readers of our blog will know the importance of sharing food, drink and conversation at Rachel Keeling!
Children helped to prepare the food during the morning: slicing cucumber for the cucumber sandwiches of course. Graters and the pestle and mortar were used to prepare the orange and cinnamon buns. Some children helped to write the 'Afternoon Tea' sign to advertise the celebration. After lunch, some children helped to prepare the tea: a milky, spicy chai. They crushed cinnamon and cardamom to blend together in the tea pots. Friends served themselves and each other and enjoyed a very sophisticated afternoon indeed!
At Rachel Keeling we know how important it is for our children to develop mathematical understanding in a variety of meaningful ways. We have embedded experiences such as our 'Shoppers of the Week', regular cooking, mud village, tidy up time, our lunch time helpers, visual timetables, our recyclable workshop area, group games, woodwork bench and many more activities that promote meaningful maths.
Some children have developed counting skills and number recognition and are ready to work on simple calculations and begin to read and write mathematical equations. A group of children have been supported to make and use a Magic Maths Machine to work out simple addition. Children work together, throwing the dice, reading the numeral and counting out the counters. They then combine two numbers and come up with the total. Children then began to note their calculations using magnetic numbers and read them to each other. Some children realised they could use their fingers to calculate!
Other children invented a game with an adult. They used a dice, numerals and hoops to take turns reading, counting and aiming! Children sustained interest and collaborated in both experiences.
As blustery autumn moves into winter at Rachel Keeling, children continue to embrace the outdoor learning environment. We are always looking for ways to develop and enhance provision. Our mud village is always popular with children playing imaginatively, concocting potions and exploring natural materials. Staff and children have begun the job of overhauling our mud village storage area and have cleared, audited (using tallies and lists), selected some new resources from our local shop and labelled the area. Children designed their own canvases to organise the shed, using their knowledge of letters and sounds to write labels and decorate the area. Children are able to access the resources more readily now, without needing an adult to help. Children's independence is so important and helps to develop self-esteem.
As with all our provision at Rachel Keeling, we continue to reflect and review it regularly to ensure it provides children with challenging and exciting learning experiences.
Edit: Since time of going to print the children have continued developing the Mud Village. A sign has been created using old off cuts of wood and kindling. The name was chalked onto the backing wood and children worked outdoors using tools safely to saw, hammer and fix the sign. It was varnished and Glenn helped to hang the sign with the children for all to see!