A Practical Project: Taking Clay Outdoors.

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This assignment reflects on a project carried out to take clay outdoors and supplement the clay using natural resources through the use of Froebelian principles and underpinned by theoretical and pedagogical research and the national guidance with the objective of peaking the child’s creativity and curiosity within an early years setting.


The goals of this assignment were to establish the area of focus and the reasons for selecting the topic and reasons why taking clay outdoors should be encouraged for children, citing academic research, Froebelian principles and national guidance before discussing how these are used to implement the exploration of clay outdoors. The project’s strengths, weaknesses will then be evaluated along with assessing the longevity and sustainability of the project and reviewing how it ties to the Realising the Ambition: Being Me, (2020) document from Education Scotland.


Over the past year and through careful consideration of the work which other Froebelians had put in place within the setting and assessment for a ‘gap’ within the learning environment, it was recognised that a transition of clay exploration could be extended to the outdoor area, enhancing the opportunities for children to develop their creativity and curiosity whilst interacting with the world which surrounds us. The (Froebel Trust, 2019) offer insight into why clay is an effective material for children’s learning, arguing that “It provides endless possibilities, and through merely squeezing, squashing or twisting it can change, encouraging ideas to flow.” This highlights that there is potential for children to create anything through their conceptualisation and hand-eye coordination skills.

With the information gathered about carrying forward a project to take forward an objective to provide clay exploration outdoors, the next stage was to create a quality outdoor space which incorporated access to clay with facilitating resources and learning materials. To create a space which aligned with Froebelian principles, the space would need to enable open ended play which would peak curiosity and, in turn, inspire creativity. This would involve transforming the space to provide access to key natural resources which could support children’s exploration of clay and open a wide variety of options for their play. As one of Froebel’s ‘occupations’, clay has an almost unlimited creative presence within an early years setting with children able to manipulate the material to mould anything that can be imagined. Within a study of Froebel’s writings, (Lilley, 1967) cites Froebel’s love of malleable play materials such as sand and clay in their “multiplicity” of purposes within play.


At the point where the clay workstation had been reorganised and set up alongside the supplementary natural materials such as water, feathers, sticks and stones, the children looked to explore with the clay, utilising the materials available to create both representative and more detailed sculptures and transient art. Suggestions from (Tovey, 2016) indicate that natural resources enforce Frobelian experiences for children in early years settings. The use of loose parts open up children’s creativity and imagination as they are able to explore the possibilities of what such resources can be used for. Observations were made by staff to identify if any adaptions were to be made, which will be a process which will continue moving forward.

The natural flow of the outdoor space was designed to encourage exploration of the natural resources as well as the environment. The connection of learning through these resources provides opportunity for children to move through the garden and link their play, with having a sand tray beside the outdoor kitchen as well as the water tray and clay workstation, which allows for a fuller creative and imagination experience whilst the garden also possesses more physical experiences in the rest of the outdoor area.  The opportunities presented within this space through the implementation of natural resources and the connectedness of whole creative experience outdoors grants chances for children to identify what their interests are and future possibilities which their imaginative play may lead to.


The findings of this report recognise how each child responded to the experiences as well as carefully considering their opinions during the stage of implementation.  Through observations of children utilising the created spaces, children’s interests have been followed up on with a child-centred approach to pedagogy. The children’s general response to the workstation has been positive with children using the space at most times during the day and being able to respond to each child’s play within the area aligns with the (Education Scotland, 2020) Realising the Ambition: Being Me document. The early years staff were also asked to share their opinions in working within the area and to offer suggestions on how the project could be altered to further enhance the learning experiences for the children. Staff noted the positive creative opportunity which the transformed space could offer as well as the space being productively utilised as opposed to remaining as ‘dead space’.

Research implications

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Practitioner enquiry

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Leadership learning

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Author and role

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