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Thrive Outdoors Blog Series: Case Studies- the children’s experience - Inspiring Scotland


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Thrive Outdoors Blog Series: Case Studies- the children’s experience


This month for the sixth instalment of our Botanics Blog series we hear from the two nurseries taking part in the pilot- Outdoor Nursery Edinburgh (ONE) and Edzell. Both nurseries share their own case study on a child’s experience of ‘The Wee Garden’. Hearing about the difference this outdoor space has made to each child is truly remarkable.  


ONE (Outdoor Nursery Edinburgh) Case Study- Rosie* 

There is a particular type of feeling that comes from being in an outdoor environment surrounded by nature. There have been many recent studies that tells us of the benefits of being in nature. It not only lifts us emotionally but physically reduces our production of stress hormones among many others. This is most evident to me when we have children who need support with their emotions – they might be nervous or shy or have other emotional challenges, but the same change happens when we play outside. They are immediately more settled, curious and have the freedom and space to explore. They are able to build on their own learning at their own pace and it is an absolute joy to watch.

Rosie* has recently transitioned to our 3-5 room. It’s been a tough couple of years for everyone but especially for those little ones who need encouragement to find their confidence. We have always supported Rosie* in finding her confidence and as time has gone on, she has slowly come out of her shell.

Over the time that Rosie* has been with us in our 3-5 room she has been gaining in confidence, but most noticeably is when we are spending time outdoors and especially at the Botanics. *Rosie has been able to express herself and make choices about her own learning. She has really enjoyed the experiences set up there, such as the threading, making patterns and has had the space and time to form friendships with others in her class. 

By observing *Rosie at the Botanics, we have been able to see her taking part, asking questions and choosing which experience she is interested in taking part in.By allowing that space and time in an outdoor environment we have seen a growing of confidence that I believe wouldn’t have grown in the same way, had we spent the time indoors. It’s been a real pleasure to watch her find her voice and be able to express herself in what can be a very noisy and hectic world! 

Edzell Case Study- Michael* 

Michael*, aged 3, comes to Edzell nursery full time and has participated in the Botanics ‘Wee Garden’ pilot since the start. At nursery, he was a child who preferred to stay indoors and would not go outdoors spontaneously. He often had to be encouraged and he would give clear explanations as to the reasons why he wished to stay indoors or sometimes he would simply say a flat no. In addition, when we first started, we walked from nursery to The Wee Garden and this often proved challenging as he found the walk plus the time at The Wee Garden quite taxing. Although, we perceived as we wanted him to develop his physical skills and his overall health and wellbeing through participating. However we had to respect his voice and find a balance between what he wanted and the wishes of his parents and the nursery. Therefore, after some discussion with the nursery, Michael’s* parents decided to reduce his hours and build up his stamina, so he stopped doing the visits to the Wee Garden for a short time in the Autumn term and the staff were very intentional in trying to get him more physically active at nursery and building his enjoyment of the outdoors. 

When Michael* returned to full days and came back to The Wee Garden regularly, he was going outdoors regularly at nursery and he was seeing the children extending experiences that they had at The Wee Garden at the nursery, which encouraged him. He chose the date of his return with his parents and he came back with enthusiasm.  Although the walk back and forth was still a challenge for Michael*, he could now cope but when we changed to using the bus to gain more time at the garden, he was very happy! He joined in with all the activities including the mud kitchen, digging, using the loose parts to build dens and ball runs and explored the area in various ways alongside the other children.

Now that we have come to end of the pilot, Michael* has shown a huge improvement in his overall health and wellbeing in several ways. His stamina at nursery has increased so there is no longer a big drop in energy at the end of the week, which was previously sometimes the case. He goes outside regularly with no encouragement, puts on his waterproofs easily, with just a little help to put the legs over the wellies ‘so the mud doesn’t go in’. Michael* was one of the children who benefitted the most form the experience particularly with regards to his physical health. Where he struggled with the walk there and back, he is now physically much more able and has gained increased endurance and now has enough energy to last the whole day. His focus has increased and at home his parents have noticed greater overall stamina and better sleeping. 

 * Please note each child’s name has been changed for safety purposes. 

 Enjoy this blog? Then keep an eye for the very last blog in this series going live on the 18th of March where we share our reflections on the pilot outdoor nursery at the Botanics.  

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Useful links  

Find out more about Outdoor Nursery Edinburgh (ONE)

Find out more about Edzell Nursery

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