'When children play in natural spaces, they’re far more likely to invent their own games than in more structured settings – a key factor in becoming self-directed and inventive adults later in life.'
"Our Land" is an early years (EY) engagement project and a short documentary-style film produced by artist Rachel Doolin in collaboration with Ulla Beag and Graffiti Theatre's BEAG program, as part of the Arts in Early Learning and Care and School Age Children Pilot Project 2023. This pilot initiative focuses on exploring and enhancing collaboration between artists and early years educators, while also reflecting on the recently published Draft Principles for Engagement with the Arts in Early Learning and Care (DCEDIY 2023).
“When children play in natural spaces, they’re far more likely to invent their own games than in more structured settings – a key factor in becoming self-directed and inventive adults later in life,” notes Richard Louv, author of "Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder."
"Our Land" was created in partnership with the children attending Ulla Beag preschool, located in the rural setting of Ogonnelloe, County Clare. Ulla Beag is renowned for its commitment to inclusivity and environmental awareness, prioritizing equal educational opportunities for all students. They adopt a child-centered learning approach and foster a creative learning environment. The school's educational approach revolves around Play-Based learning, as articulated in the Aistear Curriculum. Aistear, being an emergent curriculum, emphasizes the importance of children's interests in shaping day-to-day educational plans. Extensive research supports the idea that play-based learning is the most effective method for children to acquire knowledge and skills.
"Our Land" draws inspiration from the ethos and ecology of Ulla Beag's outdoor learning environment, where the children's voices are amplified with a unique resonance. The natural world becomes an engaged participant in their education, with open spaces, rustling leaves, melodious bird songs, and the magical light filtering through the canopy of trees providing an enchanting backdrop. This not only enhances the children's self-expression but also fosters a deep connection to their environment.
In this setting, children's imaginations are not just welcomed; they are ingrained in the very landscape. Ordinary earth, the simplest material in their eyes, teems with potential, transforming into a powerful vehicle for communication, storytelling, and visceral learning. This allows them to leave their indelible mark on the world, both physically and metaphorically. The outdoors is not merely a classroom but a canvas where the children's voices, imaginations, and the natural world harmoniously converge to create a symphony of discovery and growth.
“The film titled ‘Our Land’ effectively incorporates the fundamental principles of Arts in Early Years (EY) education, specifically by recognizing and valuing children's perspectives and their expertise in their own learning. Moreover, the film serves as a manifestation of key concepts such as the emergent curriculum, Aistear, and collaboration, while also highlighting the importance of incorporating children's voices in these processes,” comments Denise Sheridan, Preschool owner, and LINC CPD program tutor MA Early Childhood Studies.