Region 4 Contact
Chair: Joahnne Cousins
Deputy: Sarah Drummond
Counties: Essex, Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire
Eastern England Meetings
Exploring Activities of Everyday Learning
Date: Saturday 8 June 2019
Time: 10am – 3.30pm
Cost: £25 per person (for MSA members), or £35 per person (non-members)
Outdoor Learning with Ella Westhaus
at Westwood Montessori
14 October 2017
On Saturday 14th October, myself and my colleagues attended a training day entitled ‘Outside Classroom’. The training was held at Westwood Montessori, near Saffron Walden. This venue proved to be extremely suitable for the content of the day, owing to the setting’s extensive outdoor space and Forest School sessions.
The day begun with the speaker, Ella Westerhaus, asking us to each write down what we would like to take away from the training. This ensured that we all felt satisfied at the end of the day and that all our questions were answered. We also spoke about Maria Montessori’s opinions on the outside classroom, to help remind us all of its importance.
Ella set us a variety of activities to carry out in small groups throughout the day. My personal favourite involved finding natural materials to stick onto a piece of paper to make sandpaper numbers! We also created sculptures and told stories using a variety of things in the garden. These activities really opened my eyes to the endless possibilities the outdoors presents.
We finished the day by taking a short walk along to the woods where Westwood holds its Forest School sessions. The children have chosen how they wanted to utilise the area, so there was a mark making area, a tree swing and, of course, a fire circle. This has inspired my nursery to create more sections in our garden, to encourage different types of play and learning in each area.
Myself and my colleagues feel that we greatly benefitted from the training day and have already started putting our new ideas into practice. We have further developed our mud kitchen, offering the children a wider variety of tools and natural materials to utilise. We have also found ways to link the children’s learning inside the classroom to the outdoors, i.e. by using sticks to grade as you would with the red rods. Furthermore, we have begun offering the children the choice to have snacks and lunch outside more regularly. Having snacks in our Forest School circle has proved very popular!
Ella Westerhaus was a fabulous choice as a trainer and her wealth of knowledge about the outside classroom was clear to see. Her decision to break the day up with activities proved beneficial especially as we, as teachers, are not use to sitting still for so long! I also really enjoyed exploring Westwood, which truly is a very impressive nursery and preschool. Overall, the training was thoroughly enjoyable and I have since found that my perspective of the outdoor area at my nursery has completely changed for the better.
Jelly Beans Montessori