Community Songs Around the Fire

Project author:

Project summary:

Bring the community around our fire pit to create happy, nurturing memories in a safe and nurturing environment.

Introduction

The rationale for the project was:

• To create a community connection with a froebelian approach through songs.
• Implementing our fire pit in a safe and controlled manner.
• Ensuring staff feel confident to build and light fires with children.

Creating real life experiences for children was always at the fore of Froebel’s principles. He believed having hands on experiences was much more meaningful than learning from a text book. With this in mind, Community Song around the Fire was established. We looked at many documents which supported the need for high quality learning within the outdoor environment Such as My World Outdoors (2016), CfE and Outdoor Woodland Learning (OWL) Scotland.

Developing practitioner’s confidence was crucial in order to get the experience right for the children and their families. As a team we fully support our colleagues with Career-long professional learning (CLPL) to expand their knowledge and development, specifically with the fire pit as it has an element of risk and danger.

Context

To strengthen my professional knowledge, I read current documents and articles from My World Outdoors (2016), Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) and Woodland Outdoor Learning (OWL), Friedrich Froebel, A Critical Introduction to Key Themes and Debates. Bruce, T. (2021).
By engaging with professional reading I was enthused and had a clear understanding of what I needed to do to plan a successful project. My aim was to ensure high quality learning opportunities for our children and their families through fire pit experiences and these experiences to be embedded in our practice. By building capacity of the team this will ensure that the project is sustainable for years to come.
Through observations, I noticed how the children engaged in the cabin garden. The area was used as a nature garden for children to plant, dig, fill up buckets, climb trees, swing and be at one with nature. There had previously been an area created for fire pit experiences with the children. Unfortunately due to staffing and confidence fire pit experiences had not happened in recent years. This was something that I was keen to reintroduce to our setting and provide opportunities for our children to experience the joy of building and sitting around a fire.
I consulted with staff, children and families about how we might create a safe fire pit experience. In doing so, this gave me the information that I needed to inform my practice and begin working with the children on the project.

Methodology

The first stage of the project was to meet with the staff team to gauge levels of confidence in leading a fire pit experience. It became apparent that some practitioners felt more confident than others. With this in mind I organised professional learning for practitioners to build confidence in setting up a fire and giving everyone an opportunity to take turns to cook on the fire. In doing so, this alleviated any fears and concerns. This was an opportunity to speak with colleagues and team up with a more confident member of staff to help support practitioners who needed guidance to deliver a fire pit session.
The children were invited to make our fire pit safety rules to keep us all safe around the fire. These rules were embedded through many unlit fire experiences for the children prior to having a lit fire. In doing so this ensured that all children had a clear understanding of the importance of being safe around the fire area. As an inclusive nursery we believe all children should have the opportunity to the same experiences. To ensure we provide emotional harmony we provide children with one to one support when required around the fire.

During a staff meeting it was highlighted that the children often sang around the fire and liked making up their own songs. This led to the idea of our songbook being created in partnership with our children, practitioners and our families.

For this project all children and staff will invited to participate and families were invited to join Fire Pit sessions with their child.

Throughout this project I conducted an observation on how the area was utilised before the project took place and again afterwards and then shared my findings with the stakeholders. During the implementation stage of the project the team held a coffee and chat session for parents and carers to speak about Adventurous play, we discussed the fire pit project and the high quality learning experiences that is being delivered to our children in hosting the fire pit sessions. The feedback from parents was mainly positive with only one parent having doubts around how safe her child would be around the fire. “I worry my child won’t listen and follow the rules.” We invited the parent in to see first hand how a fire pit session was conducted.

“I am impressed with how well my child listens and enjoys sitting around the fire. My anxieties of the fire has gone because I’ve seen it for myself.”

Consent for photographs and observations to be shared from stakeholders were gathered through consent forms which have been kept in a locked unit for General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) purposes and will be disposed of once the project has been completed.

"This is a brilliant project to be a part of. Connor often talks of the fire pit and loves the experiences this offers him."

Parent

Findings

Hosting regular fire pit experiences allowed practitioners and children to gain confidence around the fire pit. Gathering feedback from parents highlighted that children spoke of the fire experiences at home. Children had so much enjoyment and enthusiasm when telling their parents about the fire pit experience.
Families were welcomed into the outdoor area for our Froebelian Christmas at Carolside afternoons. During these five afternoons hot drinks were warmed on the fire and children shared popcorn with their families. We asked families to contribute songs from home or from their childhood. The children demonstrated how to keep safe around the fire and shared the rules that they created to keep themselves safe with their families.
It was apparent the children thoroughly enjoyed singing around the fire. After a discussion with the children, we decided to make our ‘community songbook’. All stakeholders were invited to participate in adding songs from home the songbook. We then got in touch with our local nursing home to gather some songs from years gone by. Together with the children, the song suggestions were collated and illustrated by the children.
“The children can learn songs incredibly fast, especially if you sing them very clear and slowly altogether in chorus. Even if the little ones do not outwardly seem to join in, they are thinking it all to themselves.” (Froebel 1887:85)
From hosting fire pit experiences it was evident that practitioners became more confident which led to regular fire pit sessions organised by many members of the team. We refreshed our outdoor learning policy to include different ways that we can enjoy fire sessions. For example we decided that we could safely have 12 children with 3 practitioners when cooking food and 6 children with 2 practitioners on a regular session with fire and songs.

Conclusion

Our community songs around the fire project built on our shared passion for outdoor learning and being at one with nature has supported practitioners, children and their families by building on existing skills and developing new ones. We successfully created a songbook and offered a fire pit experience to all of our families. Feedback from this experience has been positive from all stakeholders. Practitioners have spoken about enjoying a high quality learning time with the children around the fire, listening to stories and sharing songs. Parents have fedback that they have connected out with nursery and have built fires whilst on holiday and used our songbook whilst around the fire with their families.

After discussion with the children it has been a popular choice to cook on the fire and the children would now like to make our own recipe book. Having an active approach to learning has given the children ownership and autonomy in their learning. They were proud of the rules they established and the song book that they created and thoroughly enjoyed sharing these with their families.

We will continue our regular fire sessions. We also plan to invite the Primary one children within the school to join us for a fire pit session.

Research implications

Being part of the Froebelian Futures project this session has further embedded Froebelian approaches within our early years setting. One of the aims of the project was to create ‘community connection’ using a Froebelian approach and songs around the fire which was successfully achieved. The opportunity to connect with our families around the fire was welcomed as parents had been unable to visit our setting during Covid restrictions. Gathering around the fire raised smiles brought and joy to everyone; staff, children and families alike. It was a very windy week during our Froebelian Christmas at Carolside Stay and Play Week, but despite the weather, we had a wonderful fire pit experience enjoying snacks and songs on each of the 5 afternoons.

 

Building capacity within the staff team to lead fire pit experiences with the children was the second aim of the project. During staff training the lead practitioner demonstrated how to light a fire safely and lead a session with the children. The staff then had the opportunity to cook on the fire and we shared lunch together. The lead practitioner then offered further sessions giving the staff opportunities to take on different roles around the fire. This tailored approach to training was an effective way of building confidence with the whole staff team. The impact of this has been visible in the frequency of fire pit experiences that the staff have led.

 

The lead practitioner involved the children in establishing rules for keeping safe around the fire. The rules created captured the children’s voice and allowing them to gain an understanding of the importance of these rules to keep us safe.

Practitioner enquiry

All staff are valued pedagogical leaders within our setting, being encouraged to share research and reading with the team. Practitioners have taken part in a number of enquiry projects such as risky play and weapon play as well as developing our outdoor garden as a ‘community spirit garden’.  Our setting has hugely benefited as a result of being part of Froebel training. We have refreshed our block play area, developed opportunities to practise skills related to the occupations such as daily access to sewing. The lead practitioner led sessions on Froebel gifts and sharing Froebelian Principles.

Leadership learning

It has been a pleasure to work in partnership with the lead practitioner throughout the project. Having regular meetings and check-ins ensured shared values, aims and understanding. My knowledge of Froebelian Principles and Practices deepened as we developed continued our journey of embedding Froebelian Principles and Practices within our setting.

 

A Froebelian Christmas as Carolside was an excellent way to exemplify to our parents and the wider community, the Froebelian approaches we uphold as our children experience woodwork, sewing and weaving, clay and as they learn outdoors.

Author and role

To be completed

Comments from other network members

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

  1. Karin Leitch
    Karin Leitch
    27 May 2023 at 10:15 pm

    This is a great, valuable project. It is nice to see that all staff, parents and children were included in the project and it is something that will carry on and be embedded in practice. I love the idea of making your own song book with the community involved too and your own outdoor recipe book. Thank you for sharing.


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  2. Naomi Forbes
    Naomi Forbes
    30 May 2023 at 3:11 pm

    Having just recently completed my fire training course, I found this project inspiring and would love to do something similar when I have been signed off. I particularly liked how you created your own song and recipe books.


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  3. Tammy Henderson
    Tammy Henderson
    08 Jun 2023 at 2:08 pm

    This was very thought provoking to read; My establishment values community partnerships and outdoor/forest play; the ideas that have been shared in your project are a great way to bring both of these things together.


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