Embedding Woodwork in Practice

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Project summary:

Action research and reflection on leadership from a Froebelian perspective in an early earning and childcare community



Through staff discussions and meetings, it became clear that not all staff were confident when carrying out woodwork experiences. We have had new staff start within our setting who have never done woodwork or have not had the change to explore this experience with our children and families. Therefore, as I did woodwork as my practitioners enquire my role would be to model and support all staff when introducing this to children and families that have not had the change to take part in the experience. 


During the Froebelian Leadership course, I learned that practitioners and children could learn alongside one another through rich first-hand experiences. The practitioners were enthusiastic about woodwork and willing to learn, as they knew the benefits and knowledge gained far outweighed any potential harm. “To learn a thing in life and through doing is much more developing, cultivating and strengthening than to learn it merely through the verbal communication of ideas.” Froebel 1885: 279. 

I would support the practitioners with a small group of children to work with the real tools. One practitioner was very enthusiastic as they had never done woodwork before so I decided I could start with them first. I hoped that by providing the training to this practitioner, would allow for them to pass on their positive attitude and feedback, which would then in turn encourage others. I feel that since doing this leadership course I have allowed other to take the lead in experiences, in which I have felt precious over previously. Whereas now I feel that through role modelling and sharing my knowledge with the other practitioners we can allow for woodwork to be a part of our continuous provision as everyone can lead sessions with both children and their families.  


Through further discussion with the practitioners, we wanted to give practitioners who had not completed the Pete Moorhouse training the opportunity to be able to explore woodwork with children before carrying out workshops with parents. This would allow the new practitioners to build their confidence and knowledge when using real tools with the children. I would then support each practitioner one at a time, discussing risk assessments, tool talks and the safety rules that are followed when in the woodwork shed. Practitioners who had already received the Pete Moorhouse training would carry out workshops and I would be there to give support when needed. The first step was to ask the new practitioners was to complete questionnaires to find out what their thought on woodwork was and how much confidence or experience they had prior to starting with us. I would then be able to provide any training needed or support to show the practitioners the benefits of woodwork for our children outweighed any potential risks when using real tools. ‘The thrill of being allowed, in a secure way with clear boundaries and support, to use woodwork tools when you are only three and four years old is probably never forgotten. This is high quality learning, ‘Tina Bruce 2001. 

 My main leadership role was in providing the training and role modelling for the practitioners to help build their skills and confidence to be able to prepare future experiences with our children and families. This allowed everyone to have a shared understanding on the benefits of woodwork and how it can help support children creativity, imagination and confidence to take part in real life experiences.  I would ask couching questions for practitioners to develop their own knowledge and to help them with areas in which they felt they were not confident with.  Practitioners would then have the understanding, vision and passion to take forward woodwork as a continuous provision within our setting.  

The children within the setting were fully involved in the training of the new practitioners. The children had previously learned how to used the tools and built up the knowledge and skills to independently let their imagination flow. I felt that my leadership role was also to allow the children to be their own leaders and provide them the freedom with guidance, along with the safe environment for them to work along side the new practitioners. This would in turn allow for the children to show the practitioners the skills, understanding and knowledge they had learnt and put the practitioners at ease as the children knew how to work safely and responsibly with the real tools. “To learn a thing I life and through doing is much more developing, cultivating, and strengthening than to learn it merely through the verbal communication of ideas,” (Froebel). 

 Project Outcomes 

 Practitioners learnt that giving the children the first-hand experience of using the real tools allowed them to build their awareness of safety and responsibility. It also allowed the practitioners to see that the children were developing their imagination, hand eye coordination and so much more through these experiences. It in turn allowed practitioners to carry out workshops with parents where they can help the parents become at ease with their children using these tools. Parents would learn alongside their children making for a meaningful experience between parent and child.  

Practitioners seen the joy and excitement in the children during these experiences, as well as getting to see them show off their creations and how proud they were of their achievements. This in turn made all practitioners feel proud to be apart of creating experiences which empowered both the children and themselves. 

Through our workshops, parents also could see how confident and knowledgeable their children where that they allowed them to continue this experience at home. One parent set up a woodwork bench for their child to continue to develop these skills at home, whereas another parent was so impressed with their child skills, that they would now allow them to help with garden improvement i.e. building a tree house.   

Practitioners realised that reflecting on their practice, building their skills, knowledge and confidence allow for improved outcomes for the children with in our setting.  

My role was to role model and support the practitioners to up skill their professional development and provide the appropriate resources to allow both the children and practitioner to work alongside one another, learning at their own pace.  

 Final Refection’s 

On reflection, I have learnt that my leadership style is very much participatory and that working alongside children, families and other practitioners is very successful.  Helen Tovey (Bringing the Froebelian approach to your early years practice. 2017) says, “nurseries and schools should be democratic, respectful communities of learners, where adults and children can learn from each other.” I have learnt that taking a step back and allowing the other practitioners to take the lead with our woodwork experiences, allows all practitioners to deepen their knowledge and understanding as well as practical skills with my support and encouragement. 

This project has highlighted to me that everyone can be a leader of learning, if given the opportunity to develop their skills, knowledge and understanding. It has allowed me to recognise that leadership is not just something that is carried out by senior leaders with in your team everyone has the ability to lead. Once practitioners took their knowledge and understanding and put it into the practical side of woodwork, they could see the benefits to the children learning first hand. Practitioners reflected on the experience seeing the enthusiasm and accomplishment within the children, making them see  these experiences were worthwhile and practitioners were left wanting to carry out more, continue to up skill both the children and themselves.  

Throughout this Froebelian futures course I have been given the opportunity to develop my knowledge of leadership and to further develop my own leaderships style, which is still very much ongoing. I will continue to develop my skills and profession development which in turn will allow for me to continue to explore and develop both my personal and professional leadership. 

Comments from other network members

What did you appreciate about this research? What forward-looking questions did it raise for you?

  1. Susan Gallagher
    Susan Gallagher
    24 Mar 2024 at 7:28 pm

    I enjoyed reading this project, thank you. It demonstrated the importance of allowing practitioners to be enjoy and experience being learners too which I used in my own project with staff. It raises questions for me to consider in delivering more Froebelian workshops for staff and parents in practical activities i.e sewing and clay so they can appreciate how enjoyable it feels and the impact of it on themselves to help them understand better and further support children in their learning.

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