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Opening Day at Sandy Bears in Tattenhall, Cheshire - Adventures in Education

Updated: Jul 6, 2022

I find myself being greeted with smiles and genuine interest at my presence within the setting. Unfortunately, in my experience as a volunteer, and working at multiple settings this hasn’t always been the case, but then again i am 6 foot 4 and an ex rugby player...not what most people expect to see in a childrens nursery...but we are sensitive souls too, honest! ;)

I’m ran through the induction by one of the joint owners, immediately it’s obvious that she is an experienced early years professional. She engages with my questions and is interested with my responses to her own; on my experiences within the profession and on what I would like to get from this experience.

Due to the nature of the room set up, I’m with both the over 3’s and 2-3’s. After introducing myself to the educators I’d be working with. I sit with a group of boys, asking them about dinosaurs and joining in on their play. Within seconds, I’m swarmed by 10-15 children all giving me their best dinosaur roars. With all the new names and faces I struggled to remember who was who, thankfully a girl going to school in September, who wouldn’t leave my side, continuously told me everyone’s names.

I join Becky, a qualified level 6, with the pre-school children in the learning cave, an outdoor building missing a wall. Becky leads the children in an learning opportunity around numerals, lettering and the days of the week. While this takes place, I observe that only the girls are truly engaging with this activity as the boys are present yet engaging with their own play on the peripheries. A boy, who I was told was diagnosed on the spectrum and struggles with emotional outbursts, chose rather to play in the mud kitchen. I asked Becky if she was alright with the children around her and went and played with this boy as he made me “poop soup” made from bark and water. We were soon joined by the remaining boys.

On reflecting on the day, I’d say that all the educators actively engaged with me asking me about my own experiences, our procedures, pedagogy and ethos. I had expected that due to my relatively young age to the educators I’d be working with that they would take a Parent ego state (Berne, 1996) in their interactions. However, they instead took on an Adult Ego state (Berne, 1996). During previous negative experiences, I had been looked down upon because educators made assumptions based on my age, gender and an unawareness of my experiences within the profession. However at Sandy Bears, the educators had openly invited me into their environment, with a pre-emptive awareness of my professional experiences within the sector.


Summary of my visit

While my time at Sandy Bears was short, it was striking how similar some aspects of our practice, pedagogy and ethos were. Separated by 250 miles and 5 hours on the road, and yet our approaches to our practice shared so many aspects. The importance of positive interactions, the understanding of an enabling environment and the care that management put into the educator’s continuous professional development were all amazing sights to see.

In my brief time with them I observed practices I am rearing to put into our own approaches at Beech Tree Childcare. Methods of behavioural management I had yet to see. While initially I was apprehensive of some aspects of Sandy Bear’s procedure’s my understanding of the thought behind it was solidified by educators who were able and incredibly willing in sharing their own understanding of it. I believe that they, as well, took some aspects of my own practice and thoughts, and are currently trialling them in their own setting. Sandy Bears educators’ warmth did not diminish throughout the week I was with them for. They questioned my thoughts behind practice my practice, which I was more than happy to share.

I believe every educator who is truly serious about their own professional development would benefit from this kind of experience. However, I understand that is not always achievable and I invite those who cannot to experience it vicariously through my own experience on this journey.

Something I need to remain away of is the kinds of settings opening their doors to me. These settings took part in this experience based off a single Facebook post, containing nothing more than a description of me, my work ethic, my attitude, values, and experience. These settings are aware of the benefits that come through working together, of a community of professionals joining together to assist one another and promote best practice.



Next up, I am travelling to a setting in Oban, Scotland, and I am excited to see how the curriculum differs, as I have only had experience working with the EYFS. While I have previously visited Scotland, as this is where my family originates, I look forward to furthering this adventure


Feedback from the Experience

Our main aim going into this was simple to enjoy having an educator in our setting to share ideas and have feedback. We feel it is important in driving our sector forward to have inspiration and to share our passions and ethos', for the benefit of young children all over our country. Following from your visit, we love the idea of making links and having a 'network'. it was great to hear positives from you and to see things you may change or improve - as making changes for the impact of children is the most important thing to us!

We look forward to hearing about your other experiences - and potentially visiting you too!

Thank you Cameron,

Astone, Laura & the team

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