Children to learn through outdoor play, nurseries told

Originally published in The Herald, 30/9/2009

Nurseries across Scotland will today be urged to adopt a more Scandinavian approach to pre-school education by taking to the outdoors more often.

A new DVD backed by the Scottish Government, which will be sent to every state and private nursery in the country, will highlight the importance of learning through play in a natural setting.

Many nurseries have already attached outdoor areas and staff will be encouraged to improve them with developments such as play equipment and flower beds.

Nurseries that have no outdoor space available will be given examples of how to find places nearby to give children opportunities to play outside, such as using local parks, ponds, woodland or nature reserves.

Educational experiences could include looking at tadpoles, picking up litter or collecting fallen leaves to use in pictures.

The new emphasis on outdoor education follows a visit last year to Norway by Adam Ingram, the Children’s Minister, where he saw first-hand the focus on learning through play common to Scandinavia.

Speaking before today’s launch in Edinburgh, Mr Ingram said: “There are lots of helpful ideas and inspiration for teachers on the DVD, and one of the areas focused on is outdoor play. Not only is that great fun for children, it is crucial for development physically, mentally and socially, particularly during the early years.”

In 2007, a leading children’s charity called for a major rethink of the way Scottish children are educated to ensure they enjoy their school days more.

Children in Scotland, a national support agency for organisations and professionals who work with children, called for changes after an investigation into the way services are provided in Norway.

It said important lessons could be learned from key elements of the country’s system, including the democratic rights of children from nursery upwards to influence how and what they are taught, the greater use of nature in lessons and the focus on learning through play.

The report, called Northern Lights, also said that schools in Norway were required to develop their own local version of the national curriculum with a strong emphasis on history and culture and the school’s role within its community.