EYFS: Experiential Learning & Play
Excellence in Early Years education is achieved through inspiring environments, meaningful relationships, and a deep understanding of the child. Our Early Years provision in the Junior School exemplifies all these aspects and forms the foundation for the outstanding learning that will take place in our Junior School, Senior School and beyond.
Visitors to our Reception classroom always comment on how exciting it feels when they enter our setting. Resources are organised to be accessible to the girls, so that they can guide their own learning experience, and are chosen to challenge and inspire. Quiet reading, construction work and art activities might all be taking place at the same time to enable the girls to explore their many interests. Our ‘Book of the Week’ is used as the starting point for all areas of learning and is displayed for the girls to engage with independently. If the girls are asked what they are doing, the answer will usually be ‘playing’. However, they are unaware that through ‘play’ they are counting, measuring, building vocabulary, exploring the natural world around them, engaging with written text and building life-long friendships.
‘Playing’ alongside the girls will be their teachers and learning assistants. Working in the Reception classroom might require us to sit on the floor counting how many plastic bears can go to the cinema today, writing out a menu for the café, or finding out which containers are best for transporting large volumes of water to the water tray. We get our hands dirty planting in the garden and are experts in measuring up for paper fairy wings. We do not wear high heels but keep warm welly socks in school ‘just in case’. We come to school every morning not entirely sure what might happen today and where the girls’ learning journey will take us.
"Working in the Reception classroom might require us to sit on the floor counting how many plastic bears can go to the cinema today, writing out a menu for the café, or finding out which containers are best for transporting large volumes of water to the water tray. We get our hands dirty planting in the garden and are experts in measuring up for paper fairy wings."
It is by playing alongside the girls that we learn everything about them and how to best support their learning. It makes no different to us if we are counting dinosaurs or bears or pencils or stones, but it can make a world of difference to the girls. Discovering new interests together through play helps us prepare for future learning experiences that we know they will enjoy. Our wide range of learning themes, from ‘The History of Toys’ to ‘Living and Growing’ then enables us to introduce new ideas, thoughts and questions that the girls can explore by, for example, playing with original toys from the past or watching their caterpillars turn into butterflies. All the learning takes place through natural interactions, small group activities and targeted questioning so that we can identify strengths, new interests, and opportunities for extending skills.
The first year of school is an incredibly special time for our girls and their families, and our Reception learning environment is designed to celebrate their achievements as well as preparing them for future learning experiences. The passion and dedication of our Early Years team ensures that our St Mary’s Reception girls are nurtured, challenged, and encouraged to achieve their full potential and become confident and committed learners.
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