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The Weekend that Was!

This weekend was very busy for early years colleagues in the sector including taking part in many professional development activities such as the Nursery Show and the Flourish Summit.

It was busy for me too as I attended the Professional Development Day at Reflections Nursery, in Worthing.  I have visited before and was inspired then and even more inspired now. As a trainer, it is a truly reflective experience to be a delegate and soak up new knowledge. On arrival we were treated to apple juice, which was heated up on the garden fire. The fire is surrounded by pebbles which have been sourced from Worthing sea front.


Image copyright to Reflections Nursery

We were then treated to a tour of the nursery by an Educator at Reflections. I was fortunate to be in the group of the Co- Director, Martin Pace. Martin explained that we were only allowed to take photographs of the outdoor areas and not inside. He also added that this was the stance that they have in Reggio Emilia and, in fact, it helps to focus on the experience and remember. Very good point!

Martin carefully and passionately explained, room by room, the inspiration of the projects in each room. I loved the displays that were based on children’s learning, with accompanying anecdotes.  The displays are sensory inspired. In one of the rooms, there was a bicycle wheel fixed to the wall! Ooh, what fun for a toddler to spin the wheel around!

Martin commented that when they purchased the nursery seven years ago, they threw out three skip loads of old resources!


At the Reflections event a question was asked about following babies’ interests. I was so pleased to hear the Educators state it is all about careful observation and support for physical development and the other prime areas and not so much of the project based learning. I share this message on my travels that it is about observing babies and sensitively supporting their learning and development.

When the tour finished, I had more of the lush warm apple juice and chatted to  delegates, childminders, practitioners from day care settings, pre-schools, schools, trainers, consultants. There were colleagues who had travelled right across the UK and from Dubai, Iceland and Australia, truly connecting and engaging on a meaningful professional level. Oh, and the other point to make was that the Educators from Reflections joined in with the discussions and interacted with the delegates.


Image copyright to Reflections Nursery

All eighty -five delegates walked to the Worthing assembly rooms for Martin’s presentation on Project Based Learning at Reflections Nursery. Martin’s passionate presentation gave an overview on the Reggio Emilia Town in Italy where Reflections base their approach on and how children scaffold their own projects.

Martin also reminded us of this quote from Loris Malaguzzi, one of the key figures in the Reggio Emilia approach. “Once children are helped to perceive themselves as authors and inventors, once they are helped to discover the pleasures of inquiry, their motivation and interest explode.”

Well, I am sure that Loris would be so excited to see the Reggio Emilia approach at Reflections being embraced with such desire!

Yvonne, the nursery manager, spoke from the heart about Reflection’s values and how important their induction is to staff mirroring their values. Good point from Yvonne, settings should embed their values into their induction and it should be a holistic process. Too right, your values act as reference point and should be non-negotiable as that is what you stand for.

My colleagues and I walked back to the nursery reaffirming that for settings to be of a high standard in terms of quality, it depends on the educators’/practitioners’ knowledge in child development.

Lunch was outdoors, in the true spirit of outdoor learning. We were treated to a lovely twist of a ploughman’s lunch, a sensory experience, from the flavours, taste, texture and colours.


Image copyright to Reflections Nursery

Shelly, one of the Educators, had lunch with me and a few other colleagues. Shelly has worked at Reflections for 15 years and shared her journey working at Reflections when Martin and the other directors became the new owners. She shared her light bulb moment on embracing children’s interest and how important this is to their learning and development.

After lunch we walked through Worthing Town, still discussing practice issues. Half the delegates attended Martin’s session on projects in the outdoors at the Lime Café and me and the other delegates went to Worthing Museum. The session was led by Ann Mackie from Creative Explores. Ann focused on the relationship between experiences, the environment and reflective dialogue to sustain long-term projects.

Ann explained a journey that an early years unit, within a school, is on – embedding the Reggio Emilia Approach. The focus of the project-based learning is the Educators being able to be tuned in to observe the children as they scaffold their own projects.

As delegates, we drew out our own experiences of children scaffolding their own learning. Delegates asked the Reflections Educators about how they resource the environment and one of the Educators replied. “One of my friends is a carpet fitter, so he is able to supply the nursery with carpet ends.” Job done!

This links to my philosophy that educators/practitioners need to stop thinking of resourcing settings as a budget issue. But, view it as their personal responsibility to creatively source their settings. This can be done by connecting with friends, family and places that they visit in their community and further afield. If the truth be known, the majority of resources that children use actually cost nothing!

Ann also unpicked the three characteristics of effective teaching and learning and how they do indeed are present in the day-to-day practice at Reflections.

Rounding up the session, Ann explained her values and approach which embraces three philosophical approaches: Montessori; find and return, High Scope; plan, do and review, and of course Reggio Emilia; children being the leaders in their learning.  Personally I agree and believe that the elements of these philosophical approaches and other theorists actually should be embedded into every early years settings in order that children have a rich learning and energised environment.

In fact, as Martin and Ann stated, their approach weaves into the EYFS and not the other way round! We should remember this as at times in the sector we focus too much on the EYFS as a document and not the child.

I had a look around the museum and walked back with another colleague, both discussing our roles in the sector and our passion on seeing the ‘wonder and awe’ within Reflections.


Image copyright to Reflections Nursery

During afternoon tea, I caught up with colleagues who I connect with on Twitter who stated that they had the most amazing day!

As a trainer, I loved the active learning approach from being in the garden, the tour of the nursery, walking through the town, listening to Martin and Anne, Educators and delegates sharing experiences, and the different venues for the workshops.

I liked the concept of using the community as part of the learning experience. At Worthing Museum the delegates had the opportunity to look at the exhibits and purchase items in the museum shop, supporting each other and helping the local economy!

So, if you would like to experience this multi-sensory approach to training, Reflections have another Professional Day on Saturday 19th October 2013.

Please click on this link for more information:


A final quote from Loris Malaguzzi:

“Our task, regarding creativity, is to help children climb their own mountains, as high as possible.”

I challenge you to think how you help ‘children to climb their own mountains’ in your setting and what legacy are you leaving children?

The next professional day will be on Saturday 17th May 2014 – Please contact Martin to book a place:



Image copyright to Reflections Nursery

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  • psw260259

    Thank you Laura for sharing, some really important messages. I have now added this to my personal to do list.

    Everything you have recorded here and reflected on mirrors the views expressed both by speakers and delegates at the Flourish Summit.

    As you say a very busy weekend for us all – but in true early years ethos we are all determined to provide high quality play environments and experiences for the children, and gladly give up our ‘free time’ to share to extend our own knowledge and understanding.

    And one thing has become very clear – we need to Reclaim Early Years

  • laurachildcare

    Thanks, Penny! We are all passionate and care about early years and children.

  • Miriam Landor

    re following babies’ interests: you are so right – following the others initiatives is the cornerstone of Video Interaction Guidance (VIG). Only by doing that do we build attachment and learning!

  • Sue Cowley

    It sounds like a lovely day, what a beautiful outdoor area! I particularly love the use of natural materials to build the structures. Thank you for sharing this.

    I do agree that natural resources work best whenever possible and I know that early years educators are drawn to them instinctively. However, I would say don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Don’t dismiss plastic completely as a material in early years settings. After all, the humble Lego brick was voted toy of the 20th century and it is a hugely creative and incredibly versatile resource. Often in our setting we find that resources made of natural materials do not have such a long life (e.g. a wooden balance bike we bought broke very quickly) and also are not terribly easy to keep clean.

    One of the toys our practitioners totally refuse to ‘chuck out’, no matter how often I ask, is a set of hideous pink plastic ponies. They swear that the children adore them and who am I to question their professional judgement?

  • Tracy Seed

    Wonderful to read your blog and how you were inspired by the work of Reflections. What a fantastic name for a nursery this is – We are all a reflection of each other and the world that we inhabit.

    Reconnecting to what is natural in the world and being surrounded by adults who are infused with an awe, wonder and enthusiasm for life and learning is what matters. Adults committed to partnering children, supporting exploration, enquiry, hypothesis, creativity, caring, sharing and contribution a holistic approach which enables everyone in the setting to be seen, to be heard and to reach their full potential I am looking forward to connecting with Martin and spending some time in this nursery again soon with my colleagues from Sweden and Norway – thanks for sharing Laura x.

    • laurachildcare

      Tracy, I love your inspirational comments! Every, time I visit Reflections there is always something new that I reflect on and take away.

      Enjoy your visit, with your colleagues. 🙂 x

  • Ora Berman

    Wonderfully written and thought provoking.

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