Emotion Works Outdoors: An Early Years Case Study


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A detailed example of how to introduce and use Emotion Works in an outdoor setting.

Emotion Works Outdoors: An Early Years Case Study

The introduction of Emotion Works to this outdoor space was part of a bigger project to enhance the physical area, and the outdoor learning and teaching experience, as identified on the nursery improvement plan. The Nursery is a self-contained annexe and forms part of a city centre Primary School. The external grounds are small, cordoned off within the main school playground, largely concrete and on a considerable slope.

Before undertaking any development or Emotion Works work, a survey of the existing grounds was carried out. Children, parents and staff were invited to share what they liked and disliked, emphasising those terms. Paper tags with the Boardmaker “Like” and “Dislike” symbols were given to the children to hang on objects or areas in the garden space as they saw fit. This activity reinforced simple emotional vocabulary and included those with less language. Children could carry out this task independently, but where an adult was available, the children’s thoughts were discussed and recorded on the reverse of the tag. Parents were asked to talk about the garden and outdoor area with their children at home and to share their ideas with staff on their return to nursery. Those tags were collated in a Floor Book, where the children added more thoughts and ideas of what they liked and disliked about the outdoor area, and what they wouldlike.

Staff also formally observed how the outdoor space was used by the children, discussing any issues, possible resolutions, and areas for development.

Four main physical areas were identified for development using Emotion Works:

  • Emotions Zone: using mirrors to name body parts and demonstrate emotion words and behaviours.
  • Mud Kitchen: a focus on the language of likes/dislikes through dialogue, independent play and structured activities.
  • Nature Area: a calmer, quieter area, focusing on the senses and regulation strategies (breathingbeing stillyogastorytellingtalking with friendsetc).
  • Music Zone: a place where children could make as much noise as they like by bashing metal pots and pans, singing and dancing.

It was also agreed that staff would endeavour to increase emotional language in their dialogue with children and would use the symbols in the environment to support this.


Read the full case study by downloading the here: EmotionWorks_CaseStudy_OutdoorRoseburnNursery.