Day two starts off with foggy weather, or as the Scots say - it is clagged in, and I am asked to take photographs of the fog!
Jet lag appears to be disappearing with eager delegates boarding the bus at 9am for a short journey to visit Pen Green Children's Centre. After a cup of coffee and a welcome we were given a guided tour of this inspirational setting.
What was immediately evident was the welcoming environment for parents and families with comfortable seating and informative notices. There are a number of exciting outdoor spaces for children to access.
The 'beach' is a large central square filled with beach sand with access to water, vegetation in the form of trees, bamboo and shrubs as well as wooden boat. There was evidence of children having created tunnels and cubbies in the vegetation and an assortment of both man made and natural lose bits such as tyres, sticks, logs etc had been used. This space is available for parents and families as well as the children in the centre.
The discovery area has a gravel pit, a complex stainless steel water system, ropes and pulleys with a bucket..... Loose bits such as planks of wood and a variety of containers. And children fully engaged in the work of play.
The outdoor spaces were connected with a bridge so that children could move from one space to another. During our visit the bridge was barricaded with plastic crates (not gates and fences) which a determined child could easily broach but acted as a guide that this was not currently an option.
Hills, lots of grass, a zip wire, climbing frame, cycle track with slope and gradient, wheeled toys for communal play, tunnels, hedges to crawl through, flower and vegetable gardens, climbing trees and shrubs and a very well used and equipped mud kitchen were some of the exciting opportunities available to children. Adults had set up an opportunity for children to explore using rollers and a soapy mixture. While we were there adults and children were playing a superhero game which involved masks, wild animals and lots of running and hiding.
Indoors the selection of opportunities available to the children in the nursery were varied from computers to water and sandplay, woodwork bench with real tools, block play, role play, books, arts and crafts, snack with children accessing these freely.
Specialist spaces such as a water playroom, relaxing visual sensory room, soft play room etc are available to the children in the centre as well as to the parents and families.
What struck me again and I could hear similar comments from delegates was the close connection Pen Green has with the community, how they opened up opportunities to support parents and families. Baby massage classes for dads, parent meeting room with its own kitchen and outdoor space for parents to use to connect to others and also participate in cookery classes. Vegetable gardens and a chicken pen. A space for teenage mothers to meet and socialise. Outreach programs where volunteer parents support other parents in their homes. Parents are consulted on most aspects including the design and construction of new spaces I know there were more!
At midday we returned to the hotel where Claire encouraged us to reflect on what we had seen as well as on our own practice through exploring the use of time, place, adult and resources in the indoor, outdoor and, if appropriate, the beyond spaces.
After lunch Tracy from Pen Green shared more information on the 0-3 environments as well as the theorists that inspire the work they do at the centre; Patrick Easen, Ferre Laevers and Psycholanalytic theory.
Valerie and Claire thanked Tracy and Pen Green for their hospitality and handed over a selection of books for the children. Invitations to come to Australia were also extended .... and I believe accepted!
We are now back on our bus and on the way to Durham ....there is a gentle buzz of conversations, words I am picking up every now and again indicate that delegates are reflecting on the day and planning for changes in their own settings back in Australia. And then there are those catching up on sleep!