Gillian McAuliffe gave a great talk to a group of Nurture Early Learning teachers on the role of the teacher in our outside play spaces. She started her discussion reminding us all of a few scientific facts about the importance of the outdoor space, the first one related to how important it is for a child’s eye development (particularly babies) for them to move from darker indoor spaces to bright outdoor spaces. The dilation of the pupil helps develop muscles in the eye, which are essential for healthy vision. Another interesting fact was occurrence of random events that occur outside such as planes, birds, shadows and loud noises. When these occur a child’s eyes or ears develop a sense of perspective and focus. Therefore they are experiencing different light, textures sounds and temperatures, which all offer an element of surprise and discovery that we can’t simulate inside. A teacher however needs to be constantly aware of these occurrences and provoke subtle learning opportunities around these events.
Gillian then went on to discuss the role of an adult in this outside classroom. How we can enable our children to engage in physical play and risk taking, while also developing social skills and learning about the natural world. Importantly though all while respecting the child’s desire for independent play. Gillian believes that this role as a teacher is never an isolated one and has defined seven terms that will help develop a rich teaching practice. These are an active observer, provisioner, monitor, mentor, companion, guide, and connector. Gillian suggested that not all teachers were all seven, so our teachers have identified what their strengths are outside and are now working areas that they can build on.