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Nursery Managers Show

27 - 28 June 2024 NEC, BIRMINGHAM

28 Mar 2024

Nursery Managers Book Club: Green Teaching

Nursery Managers Book Club: Green Teaching

In this month's Nursery Managers Book Club, NMT features editor Charlotte Goddard learns how settings can embed an awareness of the environment into their curriculum.

Faced with the size and scale of the climate crisis, it can feel as if our individual efforts to live sustainably are like a tiny pebble trying to hold back a massive flood. But early years educators have a better opportunity than most people to play a role in protecting our planet, because they are influencing the next generation of human beings whose choices will impact the future of the natural world.

Green Teaching: Nature Pedagogies for Climate Change and Sustainability is written by Claire Warden, education consultant and founder of the innovative Auchlone Nature Kindergarten in Scotland. It sets out a way of working with children which Warden calls “nature pedagogy”, which goes beyond just “being outside”, aiming to build a relationship with nature and to respect and support the rights of children and the planet.

This is a timely read for nursery managers as an increasing number of settings seek to introduce outdoor classrooms, forest schools, and even nature-based or sustainability curriculums. Warden warns that some approaches can end up positioning nature as “the other”, something to be visited and studied, rather than emphasising the fact that humans are part of the natural world.  A “mud kitchen”, for example, is a good first step, but limits the many possibilities of using mud as a material, and in some cases has become over-commercialised and adult-directed, she says.

The book talks about nature’s role in connecting children to something beyond themselves, with pedagogy seen as a means of developing the “whole child” rather than focusing on the acquisition of knowledge. Warden draws on the work of a number of theorists, including First Nation thinking, and even, in an enlightening if unexpected section, quantum physics. This is an interesting extension of thinking as many early years educators will be more familiar with the Nordic foundation of nature-based practice.

To read this book is for the most part to be inspired by new ways of thinking about nature, rather than to access a checklist of ways to establish a nature pedagogy in your own setting. However, at the back of the book, a series of visual mind maps set out learning possibilities around activities such as den building, mud and simply “looking up”.

Case studies dotted throughout draw on practice at the Auchlone kindergarten, describing how children have been involved in mapping and developing the site, which includes areas such as the Dark Forest, The Dragon Tree and the Fire House. I liked the case study about the children’s site design for their “frog friends”, which included “little paths so we can waltz around” and “spaces for them to croak”. Warden explains that when children come to value animals and plants in their local environment, they are more likely to feel part of a “community of interdependent parts” and more likely to make sustainable decisions in the future.

There are a number of hand-drawn mind-map style illustrations throughout, showing for example the values and principles of nature pedagogy, or seasonal rhythms and behaviours. For me, some of these could have done with being bigger and perhaps in colour. They are useful and engaging, but as some of the drawings and writing haven’t been reproduced as clearly as they might have been, I struggled to take them in. I do understand that this might have made the book too expensive to produce, however.

Children have a special connection to nature and the changing seasons, and the relationship they develop with the natural world during childhood will stay with them throughout their lives. Children cannot miss what they do not know, and Warden believes it is vital to nurture this relationship so future generations do not accept a denuded planet as “just the way things are”. This book will inspire practitioners to go beyond the “mud kitchen” or even the “forest school session” to forge deeper connections with nature.

 

More from Nursery Managers Book Club: The Neuroscience of the Developing Child

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