In a brilliant piece of forward planning, Sara and I decided to spread the word about Our Flower Patch at the exact time that our own patches needed plenty of attention. So, in amongst all the pricking out, potting on, planting out and direct sowing we've been engaged with, we headed down the M4 to Cwmbran last week to an Outdoor Learning conference organised by EAS. Despite the abundance of inclement weather often found over the bridge, the Welsh have decided that outdoor education is a must for young people and it is a mandatory part of the curriculum for children aged 3-7, on whom this conference was the focus. We think this is enlightened and allows children to explore, learn to take risks, have fun, engage with nature and their environment, become independent and work in collaboration with the adults who care for them. It also means that teachers have to be creative in their use of outdoor space and are keen to work with providers of programmes which support the outdoor classroom - like us.
Anyone who knows us will be aware that we had no trouble at all telling the 150 or so headteachers, teachers, nursery managers and teaching assistants in attendance all about the benefits of growing a cutting patch with children. We were delighted to show them some of our sample materials and send seven lucky people off with some prizes donated by some of our generous suppliers and supporters. At this very moment, school gardens in Wales are benefiting from a bee friendly seed collection from Higgledy Ben, corms and tubers aplenty from Peter Nyssen and two lovely books from Ben Raskin, Head of Horticulture at the Soil Association and Bristol-based author Bethany Wivell.
We enjoyed listening to the keynote speech by Claire Warden of Mindstretchers 'Roofed Only by The Sky' about the importance of 'nature pedagogy' or education beyond the classroom and the pioneering work which has been going on world wide to support teachers to develop an outdoor curriculum for modern day children who enjoy technology but also are enriched by the freedom of 'wild time' spent ouside the classroom.
One of the highlights of our down time on the day was meeting a real life film star in the shape of Houdini, the eagle owl and his friends. As film stars do, he attracted quite a following from among the teachers, service providers and hotel staff present. He really is beautiful, isn't he?
Unlike our members, not all teachers enjoy the support of experts in the field of outdoor education to develop a rich and exciting outdoor curriculum. If you're stuck for ideas we are happy to point you in the right direction. Get in touch with us here we love to here from folk who are enthusiastic about getting youngsters growing.