The value of woodwork

St. Werburgh’s Park Nursery School

St Werburgh’s Park Nursery School in Bristol has discovered the value of introducing woodwork in their setting with the support of Pete Moorhouse, a sculptor and woodwork educator. Staff have observed the children developing and becoming more confident as they become skilful with tools and wood.

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Our setting historically is based and rooted in creativity and children learning through as a rich an experience as possible that we can offer for them and our children, you will have noticed, come from so many different backgrounds and come with different experiences of environments at home or many come from different countries, different family units. So what Pete brings with his work, it's just another element of richness in terms of a different type of experience and opportunities they can be offered and they can engage in. I've seen children really blossom and develop through this particular medium and working with Pete through woodwork that I haven't seen with other parts of our curriculum resources that we might offer them.

So I think that engagement with wood and then the tools which is so exciting to them, particularly we've had particularly some children that just loved that the use of the tools and becoming skilled and hence we've invested money in buying tools that are appropriate for small hands. And we've invested in the goggles and all the health and safety equipment that you sort of see to support them. And we've made sure that they've had the right workbench to gather around to enable and support them. And then from them getting engaged that way and feeling skillful as they mastered drilling on sawing comes a great sense of self worth and in that way I see children blossom.

I've seen them just become a more confident individual.

I'm very aware that there are a number of concerns around children of this age being given tools, and engaging in creating and making things with wood. And I would say to those practitioners, you know, risk is a part of life, and it's our responsibility at this age and stage of development to support risk taking, obviously to minimise risk, but to support it and as adults, to ensure we've got the right structures in place and that, you know, we worked together with Pete, we risk assess the session, we risk assess the tools, the equipment and you've seen the children working with the protective goggles.

And that's a recent addition, you continually look at oh, how is that working? Where are we going to be safest with that piece of work. And hence we have small areas within the classroom or in this area outside that are fenced off.

And we have small groups and there's a very structured risk assessment put around that activity, but it's important to offer it. I think so often we underestimate children of this age, it's a wonderful age in terms of how quickly children learn and we underestimate how skillful they are and all the things that they are capable of. And it's very much I think what Pete brings with this work is is that he brings the provocation to bring the props, he brings the structure under the safety element to it. But then he brings that to them and then he lets them go with that.

He gives that freedom, which very much sits with our ethos of how we know the children learn best at this age.
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