- Firstly I want to discuss the whole experience, which will hopefully give an overview of everything and encourage more like-minded people to come together and share practice.
- I will then give a deeper overview of the following aspects, which I found while visiting Icelandic settings; risky play, people, indoor environment, outdoor environment and resources.
I may add in extra blog posts as and when I reflect further on the whole journey.A quick introduction is needed to my wonderful Highland Dancer doll mascot. Please welcome Kayleigh! I brought Kayleigh so I could interect with the children and bring a bit of Scotland with me! Play Iceland started as a vision. This vision was to share practice, ideas and play not just across settings but across the world. I was lucky enough to come across this years trip on Twitter. I very quickly became excited about the prospect of visiting other settings in Iceland! This excitement I am happy to say was continued throughout my time in Iceland. Being able to share this event with 45 like-minded people made the whole overall journey more fun. We arrived on Sunday morning on a cold, grey day and went straight to the Blue Lagoon, a beautiful outdoor hot pool heated by the geo thermal activity, to relax from our long journeys. Once in the pool it was clear everyone around me from Play Iceland was brimming with expectations and excitement. We introduced ourselves, discussed our setting back home, laughed and began forming our friendships!
After a delightful relaxing ice breaker we headed to our hotel. Not just any hotel but the newest, biggest hotel in Reykjavik, the Foss Hotel. This is when I knew the organisers had literally thought of everything. Then the food, which was mouth-watering every single night. We sampled Icelandic delicacies getting used to the regular varying fish dishes and further discussed our passions and hopes for the trip. Every night we walked together to a different restaurant sat beside someone new and chatted the night away! For me these people helped make my experience even more enjoyable and this is why I have been able to form strong bonds which will hopefully mean even more settings to visit! The settings I visited were brilliantly suited to what I was hoping to see. I attended two nurseries on consecutive days. Austurkor was my first setting, a fairly new nursery who were still building their curriculum and the way they want their setting to be seen. WOW what a great way to start. Staff were extremely welcoming, and willing to discuss with us their own vision and ideas, as well as explaining the key questions of why, how and when their practice develops. I loved the free flow play throughout rooms and age groups. Children were greatly respected and given choice in their learning in a calming beautiful environment. Staff were approachable and attentive to children, in a lovely tactile way creating a loving gentle atmosphere. We spent time visiting each of the rooms and chatting to staff during their lunch break. This enabled us to get a really good feel for the whole school vision.
After lunch we went to the forest with staff and children. This was where I became really excited because I wanted to see how they manage the risky play element. The answer was simple, trust. They trust their children whole heartedly to be able to assess their risk. The staff give the children respectful space to learn and develop with an understanding that a staff member is always near and within sight.
I came away from this setting eager to learn more, spend more time and have further discussions. I will definitely be visiting again!
My second day was spent further out of Reykjavik, in Krakkakot. This setting was homely, with soft furnishings and lots of wooden furniture. Again we felt welcome and free to share our experience, ask questions and learn their vision. Krakkakot was a more established nursery, being open for around 20 years. They put mindfullness at the forefront of their curriculum and learning goals. This is something which is common in Icelandic nurseries – to choose an aspect they are particularly passionate about, and then build their curriculum around it. Therefore the nurseies become massivley diverse and interesting.In the afternoon we put our waterproofs on, and walked the short journey to the beach! I was thinking LUCKY ME! Day one a forest and now a beach!! Again risky play was the key element of my observations, and my interest for this outing. I watched amazed as children stood on a rock and let the water come up around their feet. Staff again were confident that the children were able to assess their own risk but also respectfully available if the danger became much bigger.
The next phase of Play Iceland 2015 took the form of a tour of Iceland known as the Golden Circle. This is where we saw how different and intriging the landscape was. Theres volcanic rock, beaches, small forests, lakes, and huge parts of the landscape is unuseable. We visited the famous geysirs, the gullfoss waterfall and a beautifull wooden toy shop and factory.
Finally we attended a one day conference with presentaions from each group, to feed back what we have encountered over the previous days at the nursery settings. This was extremely interesting. Ten groups visited ten nurseries the key themes coming out of the presentations were,
- Loving children and staff
- Trusting staff
- Co- operation
- Independant children
- Everyone is valued
- Beautiful environments
- Child- led
Overall this trip has been inspiring, exciting and fun! I am very much looking forward to seeing where this journey will take me.
I have to say a massive thank you to some special people who organised this so brilliantly and thoughtfully, Tom Shea, Peyton Miles, Linda Fare and Unnur Henrys. Also to Hulda who was sadly missed but her passion and vison was evident throughout. Thank you Iceland you have been AMAZING!