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The latest articles and ideas from Inspiring Scotland and our partners.

19.11.2021

Thrive Outdoors Blog Series: Nurseries experience so far

This month for the third installment of our Botanics Blog we caught up with Edzell Nursery and Outdoor Nursery Edinburgh (ONE), the two nurseries involved in the project, to see how the experience has been so far.

Edzell Nursery is based within a church hall at Goldenacre very close to the Botanic Gardens. Being based in a church hall means they share the space with other users and are a ‘packaway’ nursery; although they do have access to outdoor space onsite.

In contrast, ONE is based on the southside of the city near Cameron Toll and daily use of local greenspace is a defining and integral part of their service.

Have you noticed a difference in how the children use the outdoor space, at the nursery, at home, at the Botanics? What have you noticed? Is the play richer?

ONE:

The children that attend our nursery are used to outdoor spaces. We are out exploring every day and I think that this has helped them to be able to engage with meaningful learning at the unique space of the Botanics rather than be overwhelmed of being in an outdoor environment.

Edzell:

Amongst the children, there is a greater awareness of nature, the small details and seasonal changes. They will talk about what they did in ‘The Wee Garden’, which is our dedicated space at the Botanics, in discussions back at Edzell or in conversations with adults and children who didn’t go to the Botanics that day.

They also make the distinction between the Wee Garden and other parts of the Botanics and this shows that they have an understanding of how to interact and respect the different spaces. The children are also more at ease outdoors, for example, they are now more aware of how to keep themselves dry and warm and will always pull their waterproofs over their wellies and even let their parents know why this is necessary.

Do you see a difference in the children’s confidence coming to the Botanics?

ONE:

Yes, although we usually spend lots of time outdoors, this is a different space with different experiences and expectations. The children have grown in confidence in what they can expect and what is expected of them. The difference between the spaces – the Wee Garden and the main publicly accessible Gardens – has also meant the children have developed an understanding and confidence in accessing different kinds of spaces.

Edzell:

Yes, absolutely. Children like routine and at the start, they didn’t know the route, nor what to expect at the Botanics. However now: they know the walk; their space at the Botanics; and they’re confident using this space and the resources. This confidence means they use the space differently each time whilst still returning to familiar activities. The children have built stamina and have become more resilient to the changes in weather.  Often the walk, which can take up to 30 minutes, is as much a part of the experience as actually being at the Botanics and it’s sometimes what they speak most about at home. Also, they’re less bothered about being dirty and have gone from being somewhat hesitant about using the toilet tent to it just being part of the outdoor experience. This experience of being in the Botanics, is helping to build their resilience, their confidence to deal with change, and to think independently.

What are you enjoying about working with the Botanics in this new project? What are the barriers and challenges?

Edzell:

Being surrounded by nature is a big plus as we all love the outdoors and are enjoying incorporating it into the children’s daily routine. Unlike the children at ONE nursery, our children are somewhat new to this. It has been great to watch how they’ve adapted to their ‘Wee Garden’, the outdoor learning and experiences and how much they enjoy just rediscovering the space each time. Although the mud has been a big hit with the children who love to immerse themselves in it and enjoy the sensory experience, it has been one of the biggest challenges. It was expected the Botanics site would be muddy but the extent of the wetness could not have been foreseen! However, like everything it’s never about the situation but how you handle it and everyone involved coming together to react positively to the challenges means solutions are found and things keep working.

ONE:

It is just a wonderful opportunity for the children to experience the outdoors in a different type of setting and one where all the plants and trees are cared for and special. Our biggest challenge is the traveling to the Botanics. We take two buses from the nursery, which the children really enjoy, but sometimes the traffic can slow us down.

 

What interested you in working in partnership with the Botanics initially?

ONE

The Botanics is such a unique space and one of the real treasures in Edinburgh. We thought it would only enhance the children’s learning opportunities. As I say, to be in a space surrounded by trees and plants that are cared for and nurtured by people who really care about the natural world is a really important  for children. It is such a positive environment to be able to experience. 

Edzell:

At Edzell, we’ve always considered the Botanics as part of our community neighbourhood. Its proximity meant the children could easily walk to and from the nursery and as such, an annual visit has always been made to “Grandpa’s Garden” within the Botanics.  When the opportunity arose to have a more formal relationship through taking part in this project, we were excited by the prospect of the children being able to combine their day-to-day experience at Edzell with its large hall and garden with an immersive outdoor learning experience in a location close to us.

Best moment so far?

Edzell:

Ah, there are so many that the team can speak of! Visiting the veggie garden where the children were so fascinated by the growing vegetables and fruits. The delight on their faces as they saw a little frog and a whole crowd gathered to watch it hop around and climb the walls of the shelter. The excitement as the children hid in the long grass. The concentration when they are weaving with the willow and the pride when they succeed. Observing them as they watch the waterfall just outside ‘The Wee Garden’ and climb the fence trying to reach it with the sticks. Children venturing by themselves to the woodland part and exploring it, uninterrupted by adults.

My personal favourite was when I looked up and observed a magical scene with the children and teachers happily enjoying the space, each other, and their activity and one little boy lying relaxed in the grass. He was looking up at the clouds and moving a blade of grass back and forth across his face. What sheer joy!

ONE:

The biggest muddy puddle EVER!!!

What do you see are the benefits of working with the botanical gardens compared with other green spaces?

ONE:

We use local publicly accessible greenspaces everyday and one of the main differences is that The Botanics is very focused on caring for individual plants and their environments. AND everything is labelled so if a child asks about a certain type of tree or plant, we can quickly find information and answer the questions! It’s a greenspace that is exceptionally well cared for and this is very obvious from the moment you enter the space and we feel it is important for children to learn about caring for the environment and learning about planting.

Edzell:

‘The Wee Garden’ is their space and they have a freedom to create. dig, build etc within this environment. Once they go into the Big Garden (the wider Botanical gardens) for walks etc, there are different rules and boundaries that they have to respect. It is good for them to understand these differences and learn how to respect nature and care for the environment within two very different spaces which are juxtaposed. They have a chance to learn about plants and trees from different parts of the world and to learn about biodiversity. They get to watch and interact with the staff from the Botanics and will happily ask them questions about their jobs and learn from experts. The Botanics offers a diversity and a community feel that they aren’t able to get in other green spaces. Since Edzell is a local nursery, the children live in the area so many visit the Botanics with their families. They now can pass on the knowledge they have learnt to their families, and when they visit, they take pride in showing them their space.

Image credit: All photos from Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh 

Enjoy this blog? Then keep an eye for the next blog coming on Friday the 17th of December ,where both the up’s and downs of piloting a new outdoor ELC in a botanical garden will be shared as well as the key learnings along the way!

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