Case study
9 Jan 2024

Developing a lifelong connection to nature at Play and Learn Nursery

Sofia Metcalf-Riener
hand holding leaf

Play and Learn is a nursery in Birmingham with 60 pupils and, like many Early Years settings, they use the outdoors in their learning a lot. 

Here, they tell the story of how they developed outdoor learning at the nursery, using the Nature Park programme to grow staff confidence, develop their outdoor learning practices and make a plan to enhance their outdoor areas.

Children at Play and Learn explore and play in their outdoor classroom, allowing them to experience and connect to the natural world around them. The nursery hopes that the Nature Park will enable them to develop this further, giving their pupils first-hand experiences of nature and developing knowledge of how to care for it. They hope that this will cascade beyond the nursery and encourage caregivers to take their children outside and experience nature at home. 

Enhancing outdoor space for nature and pupils 

At first, members of staff at the nursery were unsure about how to start developing their outdoor learning vision, and how they could learn more about bringing nature into their nursery. Growing staff confidence was the first important step and Paul, one of the staff members who is Forest School trained, helped other members of staff to start to think about how they could use their space for more outdoor learning. “Without the Nature Park we wouldn't be as far as we are. It was very hard for us to find support on how to do things but joining the Nature Park has helped us learn more and feel more confident in bringing nature into our nursery”.  

The Nature Park programme has helped Play and Learn to create a plan about how they want to use their outdoor space. Firstly, they investigated their grounds to understand their site better, allowing them to acknowledge what they already had and identify any opportunities to develop their grounds both for nature and their pupils. After completing some of the Explore Your School Site activities, the nursery have decided to create a pond area, both to provide learning opportunities through pond dipping and create a seasonal pool to control flooding. They are looking forward to the benefits this will bring to wildlife and for the pupils to interact with.  

Learning to live as part of nature 

Alongside creating a plan to boost nature on their site, the Nature Park programme resources have provided pupils with opportunities to interact with and get comfortable with nature, learning to coexist with the nature around them through getting their hands dirty and gently holding insects. The nursery particularly like the lesson that nature can teach us that it is okay to get things wrong.

“If you plant a seed and it doesn’t work, you try again, maybe move it to a sunnier position, give it more water, but you don’t give up”.  

Claire Hodgetts, Nursery Manager

dainty orange flower against green background
What are Play and Learn’s hopes for the Nature Park in their nursery? 

Through the Nature Park programme, Play and Learn Nursery want their children to have a first-hand experience of nature, learning how to care for it and understanding the value of nature.

“We grow up in a concrete jungle, with pretend grass and pretend flowers. Our children need to learn how real flowers and grass grow. There is so much pride and joy that can be had just from a seed.

We are a first step in creating a positive ripple effect on both children and nature throughout their lives. The more we teach the children about nature, the more nature there will be everywhere else in the future. All staff are excited by the project and can't wait to see not only the impact on the children's confidence and learning but also the environmental impact on our local area”.  

Claire Hodgetts, Nursery Manager