Bristol Early Years Outdoor Research network (BEYORN) is committed to promoting the benefits of the wonders of the great outdoors for early years children and their families and supporting settings to facilitate this. BEYORN meets three times a year, including through the pandemic, all settings are welcome and participants of sessions vary each time. These inspiring sessions are an opportunity for settings to share their experiences, ideas and support with each other. Each session will always have a focus on research, considering what we are noticing about the children that are outside. Pippa, a founding member of BEYORN, explains how, at the most recent session the group reflected on how the children had been able to reconnect with the wild spaces used by their settings during lockdown in the Autumn. Their research and observations of the children during this period showed that ‘A lot of children have had a lot of experience outside during lockdown, so were very confident and physically very confident. Then of course we also had children who hadn’t had a lot of outside experience and are noticeable physically unconfident. The resilience and confidence of some of the children is definitely coming through and practitioners are talking about that.’

As a consequence of lockdown and the pandemic BEYORN has noticed an increase in the use of Bristol’s green spaces. People are recognising the benefits of being outdoors on both their physical and emotional health ‘We really are celebrating that people are finding spaces near their homes. There’s been a real interest in the birds and people learning about nature. There is an increased interest in the natural world and that feels really positive. The calming effect of being out in nature is being spoken about more. The wellbeing from being outside and the stopping and being present in the moment is really encouraging’. BEYORN and its members recognise that providing opportunities for engaging with the outdoor environment ‘ feels even more important for our families that haven’t had much experience of being outside, it feels even more important for our settings and schools to encourage and to link families with their local areas.’

BEYORN are hoping to help and support more people to access the outdoors and natural environment, promoting open ended, child lead learning and considering the ethos of sustainability and ‘leave no trace’. Bristol has really strong advocates for outdoors and BEYORN can be ‘a channel for people to come and be inspired and for those champions and outdoor advocates to share and deepen their own thinking.’