Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Visit to an Outdoor School


A large uncovered sand pit.
This week I was very lucky to get to spend a few hours at an outdoor preschool in Letterkenny, Co. Donegal. I had read about this place last year in a newspaper article & really wanted to get an opportunity to visit it as they are not so usual in Ireland & I would normally have had to go to Scotland or England in order to get this opportunity if not even further to Scandinavia!
Through Twitter & a Teachmeet I attended in February I got talking to a teacher who was intending to send her child to the school & we agreed that we would stay in touch so we could arrange a visit for me & when I then mentioned it in school of course my colleague wanted to come along too. So we set off for one afternoon & even thought it was a journey of almost 2 hours it was well worth it.
Loved this slide & simple steps
The system in the Republic of Ireland is different to ours in the North, so the Glen School is like a daycare come preschool. There are no nursery classes in the Republic with qualified teachers in them, by that I mean teachers who could teach in a primary school as well. From what I gathered the Glen school operates from 8-5 as a day care for babies up to 4 year olds, 5 days a week. But many of the older children attend for 3 hours per day as that is the time allocated for free preschool places by the Irish Government. Not all the children attend for 5 days or for the whole time. The school can have a maximum of 16 children with 2 adults or 3 if there are babies.
The setting is in a fabulous, rural area just outside the town of Letterkenny. There is a building on the site that houses an area for the children to have a mid day meal or for the babies who aren't yet walking & therefore are a little too small to be outside.
Then on the site there are also 2 outdoor toilets & an indoor area where the children take their mid morning snack, do art work or take refuge on days of extreme weather. Although Kathleen the staff member we spoke to, said it is quite rare for children to request to go into the room. As they have more preschoolers who are toilet trainned they found they had to install an outside sink are for handwashing to alleviate queues at the toilets! They have loose gravel all over the space, much like I had seen in Norway rather than safety surface, though there was some around the climbing frame. There were lots of little areas for children to explore e.g. places with lots of loose gravel for pouring into drain pipes, small stones beside weighing scales & mirrors down at a low level for mat play. They had a work bench under a perspex cover so it is available in all weathers. There are big tractor tyres for the children to climb inside or over, depending on their age, size or skill level.
The natural stream has been landscaped into a large pond with big stones in it & we saw photos of children sitting on the biggest stone fishing. There is a very steep bridge over the stream into a mud pie kitchen area, in 2 areas, out in the open with a big range cooker & then another in a pergola, again offering shelter in wetter weather.
When we were there there were just two 2 year olds & a 7 month old baby &  would have loved to have seen it in full flow with the 16 children ranging in age from 7 months to 4. Most of all I wish it was nearer so I could take my class on a visit, they would love it!

A big thanks go the staff at Glen Outdoor School, Glenswilly, Co. Donegal & to Susan for the introduction.
(Everything is painted green & gold as the county won the All-Ireland football final last September)




17 comments:

  1. Great to see the photos - thanks for this blog post as I've never been to Ireland so it's great to see what's happening out there too!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh this place is incredible, sally who owns & runs it has spent time in Auchlone & I could see he influences. What I found interesting for me was that I probably know more about the UK systems than the irish system even though we are on the 1 island.

      Delete
  2. What a wonderful place! I love knowing that there are pre-schools and schools like that around. Wouldn't it be amazing if they caught on big time?!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh agreed 100% Lucinda, in the 2 hours we were there I never heard either of the 2 year olds crying & I don't think that would have been the case in a typical day care setting. The freedom to explore & move about must be a joy for the little ones who are lucky enough to go here.

      Delete
  3. Thank you for sharing this with us - I was there right at the beginning after Sally had visited Auchlone and then invited me to Ireland to spend a few days with her and her team to deliver training on Nature Kindergartens, Risk and Documentation (Claire Wardens Talking and Thinking Floorbooks). I was impressed with Sally's determination to make Glen Outdoor School happen ..... she was prepared to stand up for what she believed in to the benefit of the children. She even diverted a little stream through her property to create the pond! When I was there there was a lot of mud ...lovely to see the grass and the plants growing....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh yes, it was obvious the Mindstretchers touch had reached here. We didn't get to meet Sally herself but her staff were very knowledgeable & spoke highly of all that sally had brought back from Scotland.

      Delete
  4. What an amazing place to play! I love all the different areas!

    ReplyDelete
  5. The glen in letterkenny is an amazing place after visiting it and chatting to sally it gave me the determination to open my own outdoor preschool "outdoor explorers preschool" in Mayo Ireland Sally is a truly determined woman who drives on what she believes so passionately in and is helping drive Ireland towards a more outdoor friendly place

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Avril, oh it's so good to hear of another outdoor preschool, I knew of one in Meath but not yours, if I am ever over in the West I'll get in touch.

      Delete
  6. Thanks for the post.. here you can find best play schools, with full facility know more...

    ReplyDelete
  7. Nice job, it’s a great post. The info is good to know!
    How to Start Play School

    ReplyDelete
  8. Your blog is so good having good information about the baby care and even we are running Pre nursery school in hsr layout..Best place for your children , for more information please visit us http://www.findlocales.com/bangalore/search/bcontacts/details/4445/bubbly-bunnies.html and we are providing Pre nursery school in hsr layout,day care in hsr layout,toddler play school in hsr layout,Pre nursery school in bangalore,day care in bangalore,toddler play school in bangalore

    ReplyDelete
  9. greatest job....very nice place thank you for sharing...

    Kindergarten in Indira Nagar

    ReplyDelete
  10. very nice post thanks for sharing such a post Play School in Beeramguda

    ReplyDelete
  11. Hi, just wanted to mention, I enjoyed this blog post. It was helpful. Keep on posting!
    Schools in Hitech City

    ReplyDelete
  12. Thank you a lot for sharing this with all of us you actually realize what you’re talking approximately! Bookmarked. Please also discuss with my site

    International Schools in Hitech City

    ReplyDelete