A new outdoor nursery pilot programme by Glasgow City Council was launched today by Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, John Swinney and is moving the classroom to Castlemilk woods so Glasgow's children can learn and play in the great outdoors.
The Castlemilk outdoor nurseries programme - the Welly Wanderers - has been designed as an innovative way to improve health and wellbeing, engagement with outdoor learning benefits and an imaginative way to create more childcare spaces ahead of the Scottish Government's expansion to 1140 hours of funded early learning and childcare by 2020.
The partnership programme is being delivered by the council, Inspiring Scotland and eight council and partnership nurseries in the Castlemilk area and allows almost 400 local children to play, learn and have great fun outdoors.
It's an excellent opportunity to improve the children's health and wellbeing as well as helping to close the attainment gap from an early age.
As Councillor Chris Cunningham, Education, Skills & Early Years City Convener explains: "There is a growing body of research that shows that children's exposure to nature and active outdoor play improves physical and mental wellbeing and can help children to develop emotionally and improve learning.
"Our aim is for outdoor nurseries to become a central part of our childcare provision and there are already plans in place to expand the programme to other areas of Glasgow.
"For many years in Glasgow we have put a strong emphasis on taking the classroom outdoors and know that the children and staff greatly benefit."
The Castlemilk Outdoor Nursery programme is one of three established across the city under the partnership with others established in Drumchapel and the east end.
Currently, children in Scotland are not physically active enough which is having serious implications for their health and well-being. Children as young as six-years-old now spend an average of three hours a day sedentary on front of a screen - the average for all primary-aged children is 8 hours per day.
Children from the eight local nurseries will have one day per week where their nursery class is held outside - regardless of weather - in the Castlemilk woodland. As well as the benefits to health and well-being and learning, playing and exploring outdoors will help children to engage with the nature and become the environmental custodians of the future.
At the launch, John Swinney, Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills said: "We are committed to doing all we can to make Scotland the best place for children to grow up. High quality early learning and childcare will play a vital role in making this ambition a reality, which is why this government has gone further than any other in our commitment to expanding funded early learning and childcare.
"The Welly Wanderers is a brilliant example of the kind of innovative and exciting approach we need to enhance early years development, help nurture a passion for the outdoors and STEM at a young age and help close the attainment gap between children from the least and most deprived communities.
"We already know that learning outdoors has significant benefits for children in terms of their health and wellbeing. But it is just as important, as was clear from my visit today, that the children definitely find their time exploring outdoors and learning through play great fun."
Celia Tennant, Chief Executive of Inspiring Scotland said: "We firmly believe in the power and potential of outdoor free play to improve learning for all our children, helping to close the attainment gap, address inequality and reduce long-term health issues.
"We are delighted to be working in partnership with Glasgow City Council to make outdoor play an intrinsic part of the provision of Glasgow's Early Learning and Childcare."
The Jeely Piece, which runs the Jeely Piece Nursery in Castlemilk and regularly utilises the woods for outdoor play, is one of the nurseries taking part in the programme.
Tracey Black, Director at Jeely Piece Club, said: "The outdoor nursery is an amazing adventure for children in their early years and we are delighted to be a part of this initiative giving more children the opportunity to play in the fantastic Castlemilk woodlands.
"We know that children are not put off by the weather and absolutely love spending time outdoors in the woods. The outdoor nursery creates a fun and exciting learning environment on a daily basis."
Castlemilk outdoor nurseries 'known as Welly Wanderers' is a partnership between Inspiring Scotland, Glasgow City Council Education Early Years Learning and Childcare and eight local nurseries. The nurseries are:
• Jeely Piece Nursery
• Indigo Nursery
• Cassiltoun Nursery
• Cherry Tree Nursery
• Arnwood Nursery
• Machrie Nursery
• Castlemilk Day Nursery
• Castlemilk Family Learning Centre
Find out more information about Inspiring Scotland