To appreciate the beauty of a snowflake, it is necessary to stand out in the cold – Aristotle
January – a new year. Christmas is behind us and the cold weather is starting to bite. Trees are bare, frost sparkles on pavements, the air is brittle.
How can I celebrate this with the children I work with?
The answer lies in Aristotle’s simple yet profound quotation about the beauty of a snowflake, which tells us that we are most alive to the world when we experience it first-hand.
Forget screens, forget apps: the sheer, extraordinary wonder of our planet is there for the taking – in our surroundings and in the ever-changing seasons and weather.
Running music sessions in a forest school and a wildlife garden has opened my eyes – and heart – to the benefits of outdoor learning. I see it in the children’s faces, in the way they are so clearly free to explore and experience their environment in all weathers and conditions – ‘to stand out in the cold’.
The other day, for example, a two-year-old girl came up to me after our music session and said, ‘Hug!’
I gave her a hug and said, ‘Ooh, your hands are freezing! Where are your gloves?’
A teacher replied, ‘Oh, you won’t get A to wear gloves – she hates them!’
Thinking about it, of course, A is way too busy to worry about whether she’s got her gloves or not. She wants to run and play and feel things with her hands – the earth, the trees, ropes on a swing, an icicle.
And this is what early years education is all about: experiencing things directly – touching them, exploring them, learning about their properties and how they make us feel.
Which is a very long-winded way of saying I’m going to be celebrating Winter this month.
There’ll be songs and poems about snowflakes and ice; there’ll be circle dancing and thinking about warm outdoor clothes; and there’ll be snow music – with body percussion (rubbing hands, clicking tongues, blowing) and metal instruments (bells, glockenspiels, triangles).
What I said earlier about experiencing things first-hand is a key part of the series my sister, Polly, and I are developing with KingBee Animation.
It’s full of original songs written by me to educate and entertain preschool children and their families. But it’s also about the opening of my heart – and, hopefully, every child’s heart – to the benefits of outdoor learning and (to quote myself!) the sheer, extraordinary wonder of our planet.
I can’t wait to share it with you!