Outdoors Case Studies

Lantern opened in 1989 as part of Redland Parish Church. There has recently been a big project which involved completely rebuilding the church halls and re-designing the garden. During the building work which took 14 months, the vicar and his wife very kindly moved into the upper floor of the vicarage and allowed Lantern to relocate in the ground floor and use their garden.

During this time the preschool team applied for and were successful in their bid for capital grant funding to redevelop their garden in the new build. Liz Taberner (the preschool manager) and her team took their application for the grant very seriously; they took time completing it and drew on ideas from people in the church community. They were very excited when they heard they had been successful. As Liz says ‘without the grant it would have taken several years to fundraise to do all we wanted to do’.

Liz and her team worked with the project manager, Ron Morgan, to design the basic layout. There was a lot of negotiation involved as the garden is used by a range of different groups. Liz undertook a lot of research as she planned the garden and consulted many different companies and designers. She liaised with Nicky Bale from the Early Years team and together they went to visit different early year’s gardens around the city accompanied by the project manager. Liz felt this was a very useful and necessary process as it gave her ideas and also reignited her own enthusiasm. She enjoyed talking to other professionals, learning from others and seeing what the possibilities were. As part of the wider conversations about the project Liz also met with members of the church and a volunteer from the church who is a landscape designer. So a great deal of expertise was available to draw on.

When talking about the garden before the development, Liz says the garden has always been used by other people but they accepted what they had. The main difficulties were mark making and physical development.

In September 2016 the new halls were ready and the preschool moved into their new rooms after the October half term. Large glass doors open out onto a patio with steps leading to the garden. The view from the preschool is of a lovely green space with mature trees and bushes at the back. The practitioners feel an increased sense of well-being surrounded by nature and now it is no longer a building site the resident squirrel has returned which has made everyone happy.

There is a lot more independence and choice in the new environment. Liz felt a big shed was a necessity in the plan and this houses outdoor resources. Children can see exactly what is available and can either ask for things or access the lower items themselves.

One of the things Liz would not compromise on was the installation of a climb-in sand pit. Her determination has paid off as this has made the biggest impact to the outdoors. The most frequent question she hears now is ‘can we go in the sand?’

Liz feels there are many benefits for the children in the new garden, these include:

  • A greater choice of resources, with the new shed they can access most things themselves
  • They are learning about turn taking with the new climbing equipment. They are developing perseverance and mastery as they challenge themselves with climbing, dealing with steps and slopes then gaining a sense of pride at their own achievements. One parent said: ‘wow, it looks amazing. He was so happy that he went down the slide.’
  • The environment has helped with aspects of communication and language, particularly prepositions, mathematical and movement vocabulary
  • Exploring the many textures in the environment

The practitioners feel it has made observation easier for them as there are larger areas outside in which to observe physical development e.g. climbing stairs and slopes. A mud kitchen is housed at the top of one side of the garden behind the bushes making an enclosed area for the children to engage in role play and explore the natural environment.

The team used the Bristol Standard to help them plan the garden as they knew they needed to cover all areas of learning and consider all the dimensions. As with all developments in early years, it doesn’t stop now. The next steps are to install bird boxes, buy a willow tunnel and tepee and chalkboards to enable the children to mark make outside.

Before

Building Work

Work in progress

Children playing in the new garden