Date
31/07/2019
Grant holder
Alison Hawkins, Headteacher, Wester Coates Nursery School
Project status
Completed

Froebel Trust awarded a grant to an inner city kindergarten in Edinburgh to develop the use of woodwork as a Froebelian Occupation.

Project summary

Wester Coates Nursery School is an inner city kindergarten in Edinburgh. With a Froebel Trust grant they were able to train their staff in woodwork and purchase a workbench, appropriate tools and an initial stock of balsa wood for the children at the nursery.

"As an extension to our Froebelian approach the introduction of woodwork has been amazing!  We knew the 'activity' would attract attention, provide fun and process - if not polished finished results - but we had not anticipated the depth of engagement and learning that the children would develop so very quickly; nor the positive impact it would have all round.

A long time ago woodwork was available outside in our garden but as younger children joined us, as we used more time interacting regularly within our wider community, and as staff let go of the reins trusting the children to move in a more free flow manner it all but disappeared. Other of Froebel's occupations remained - sewing and weaving in many forms, play dough and clay, general mucking around in mud and sand were all there to enhance sensory and creative play, as was the stimulus of a well-stocked atelier...sometimes more likened to a junk shop! Peas and sticks and small toys or loose materials provided the opportunities to hone fine motor skills but 'woodwork' seemed restricted to wooden hammers and mosaic pieces, or the occasional chance to hammer nails into sawn logs.

With the widespread increased interest in adopting Froebelian principles in Early Years Centres (thank you Prof Tina Bruce et al) and the subsequent available training and research, Wester Coates Nursery School found itself with a greater understanding of the philosophy of day to day life for the children. Three staff members – over different academic years - undertook the Froebel in Childhood Practice Course and the resulting comprehension, commitment, and sharing with parents transformed our practice.

It was the funding from the Froebel Trust, however, that set us on our woodwork way, allowing nearly all staff to take specific, and quality training, with Pete Moorhouse. In addition it enabled the purchases of a Community Playthings workbench, appropriate tools and an initial stock of balsa wood. Likewise using some of the funding for cover to free up individual members of staff to support children in the first part of our woodworking journey was invaluable. This allowed woodwork to be embedded rapidly.

Safety very quickly became common practice and I don’t think I have ever had to remind children to don safety glasses. Most children use the area regularly and rarely fleetingly. Many now do this on their own, with a maximum of two children at the bench. They have become adept at screwing and hammering, at making choices and decisions, at sharing discovery and inventions...although so deep is the engagement (think 5s on Leuven’s well-being and involvement scales) that many times there is little conversation.

Recently we have observed children mark-making their designs, suggesting a giant piece of collaborative woodwork outside, and developing their sawing abilities - albeit still with support. Primary aged children from our Friday afternoon nurture group have also benefited.

We see ourselves still near the beginning of a journey - one which we consider will enable problem-solving skills, mathematical experiences, independence and creativity to soar."