Research into early years communication prompts school to open seaside-themed area

A new £10,000 beach-themed outdoor area has been opened at a Nottinghamshire Primary and Nursery school in response to a research project which worked with pupils aged three to five to investigate which spaces improve child communication.

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Research found that a favourite place for children was the beach
It is great to see the powerful impact the outdoors can have on children's holistic learning.

Victoria Brown, course leader for BA Primary Education

A new £10,000 beach-themed outdoor area has been opened at a Nottinghamshire Primary and Nursery school in response to a research project which worked with pupils aged three to five to investigate which spaces improve child communication.

Victoria Brown, course leader for BA Primary Education at Nottingham Trent University's School of Education, and Juliet Clark, early years leader at Robert Mellors Primary and Nursery School, worked together to explore how to improve children's communications skills, and their interactions with adults, through the physical aspects of their environment.

Following initial research with the children, focusing on finding out which spaces were important to them and which spaces were good for talking in, an inside 'home corner' area was created where adults could interact better with the pupils. The researchers also introduced a quiet space outside with books and chairs to observe how the children sat and engaged in conversation.

They also involved the 28 five year olds and 33 three year olds in discussions about their favourite places and where they could find a quiet space.

The research found that a favourite place for the children was 'the beach', so a grant from the National Lottery Awards was used to develop the new seaside-themed area.

Features include a pulley system to promote discussion and higher level thinking; a mud kitchen for promoting role play outside using natural materials; a gardening area laid out in small sections; a water wall to promote discussion and enquiry; and climbing and balancing areas to promote working collaboratively. There children also have access to role play and den building equipment.

Victoria Brown said: "Nottingham Trent University is proud that our initial funding for research provided the catalyst for this project. It is great to see the powerful impact the outdoors can have on children's holistic learning. It is a fantastic opportunity to be working together with the school for the benefit of children.

"One of the many benefits of being in partnership with the University is the opportunity to be involved in research and further training on outdoor learning approaches. For example, our Forest School training courses provide an inspirational approach to outdoor learning, based on the Scandinavian tradition of allowing children time to play, manage risks, develop a love of nature and learn skills in natural environments."

Juliet Clark added: "The project has been very exciting and rewarding. It is fascinating to see the children so engaged in learning outside and developing their communication skills. The children are so excited about the new area."

Children's progress in speaking was assessed against Development Matters charts and judged as beginning, developing or secure within each age band. Since the start of the project, evaluations of the data have shown that there is good progress in the children's speech and language development with 64% making good progress and 19% making accelerated progress.

Research into early years communication prompts school to open seaside-themed area

Published on 21 November 2014
  • Category: Research; Nottingham Institute of Education

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