The Project Plan


Hello Edlabbers


I have updated the project planner, that we discussed and agreed during the 2nd Conference.  You will find details of the next tutorials with me (Lucy) and those coming activities that you can get involved with at Hulme Garden Centre, please let Rachel know if you are able to join in with world book day and Potato day.

The more you get involved and document your experiences at the garden centre, the more material you will have to draw on when you come to write the assignment.  Taking pictures and writing brief descriptions in your personal blogs is a great way to keep on top of this..oh and sharing with others.


Please keep in touch via email and WhatsApp group for updates and information that you might need.  I will see those who can make the first tutorial on 26th Feb at 1pm.

I am also happy to conduct 1.1 tutorials for those wishing to see me on a more frequent basis – but we will have to agree a convenient time as I don’t work full time at the Uni.

See you all soon (project planner below)

environmental play project plan


Pictures taken from the last Ed Lab conference –

Potato Characters (decided by some of the group) ready for making at Hulme Garden Centre for Potato day.  More ideas would be great – get thinking about those potato puns

The bottom two pictures are the group poems created, as part of conference 2 activities –







Project Plan post 1

Hello Edlabbers (Sorry Rachel I pinched the term!)


I have updated the project planner, that we discussed and agreed during the 2nd Conference.  You will find details of the next tutorials with me (Lucy) and those coming activities that you can get involved with at Hulme Garden Centre, please let Rachel know if you are able to join in with world book day and Potato day.

The more you get involved and document your experiences at the garden centre, the more material you will have to draw on when you come to write the assignment.  Taking pictures and writing brief descriptions in your personal blogs is a great way to keep on top of this..oh and sharing with others.


Please keep in touch via email and WhatsApp group for updates and information that you might need.  I will see those who can make the first tutorial on 26th Feb at 1pm.

I am also happy to conduct 1.1 tutorials for those wishing to see me on a more frequent basis – but we will have to agree a convenient time as I don’t work full time at the Uni.

See you all soon (project planner below)

environmental play project plan

Lucy Caton (MMU)

Safe Guarding and Ethics of Project Work

It is a legal requirement that anybody working with children, young people or vulnerable adults is appropriately briefed on safeguarding. As such it is important that all EdLab students engage with this post carefully.

By its very nature your work in EdLab will put you in contact with external partners and individuals outside the university – and often, these will be children and young people. Whilst you should never be put in a position by which you are responsible for a group of children, it is important that you appropriate briefed and considerate of the responsibilities this brings to you for child protection, and more broadly for ethical and professional conduct.


The term ‘safeguarding’ is used to describe the processes and measures which are put in place in order to protect children, young people and vulnerable adults. This protection includes, of course, extreme instances of abuse and maltreatment – and the current legal framework was put in place in response to highly publicised failures of public bodies to respond to warning signs that children were in danger. Safeguarding does mean something a bit broader, though. The UK Government defines the term as;

‘The process of protecting children from abuse or neglect, preventing impairment of their health and development, and ensuring they are growing up in circumstances consistent with the provision of safe and effective care that enables children to have optimum life chances and enter adulthood successfully.’

(DERA, 2014)

This extends the reach of safeguarding beyond child protection to incorporate the additional aims of preventing adverse impacts on health and development, and the promotion of circumstances is which children can thrive through to adult life.

Responsibility to assure safeguarding lies with both organisations (in our case, with the university through EdLab) and individuals (your project coordinator and, importantly, you). There are some basic implications of safeguarding policy for you. These are very simple, and should not be complicated;

  • It is important that all EdLab students have completed a full DBS check. It is your responsibility to ensure that you have one, and our responsiblity to pay for it and to limit access to outreach activity without one. In rare situations in which it isn’t possible to gain a DBS (for some international students) alternative arrangements will be made for the student
  • At no point should an EdLab student be left in sole responsibility – the lead for the space you are working in should be the project coordinator, a class teacher or equivalent or the parents of children (who should remain with them at all times
  • If you are concerned, tell your project coordinator. One of the golden rules of safeguarding is that communication is important, and you should flag up any concern (even if you think it might be silly) about young people you are working with immediately with your project coordinator (let them decide whether further action should be taken). It is important to remember that there is no right to confedentiality in law … if a young person starts to disclose something to you, tell them that you will have to tell somebody, and then do tell somebody else, even if they don’t disclose anything.

At this point, we would like you to follow this link and confirm that you have read and understand your responsibilities regarding safeguarding.

Risk Assessment

Whilst the guidance above ensures that you are compliant with fundamental safeguarding commitments, there are additional responsibilities which you should be aware of. Most notably, you are responsible for ensuring that any participants are kept safe within the activities that you run for them. Risk assessment can sometimes get caught up in slightly silly rhetoric, but the fundamentals are pretty simple. The usual process goes something like this…

  • Identify all of the hazards associated with your work. This is anything which might feasibly pose perils to physical or psychological health.
  • Consider which of these hazards constitute risks. Hazards only become risks if they are likely to occur, and if they would be unsafe if they did. This is the process by which you ensure your risk assessment is both effective and sensible, by identifying the things that are most likely to need planning for
  • Finally, you should establish precautions which will be taken in order to prevent risks turning into genuine dangers. What will you do in order to minimise the danger posed by hazards?

Usually, risk assessments are recorded in forms that look something like this – and shared with everyone involved in running the activity.

Professional Conduct

Work on educational outreach projects also has broader implications in terms of your personal conduct. It hopefully goes without saying, but we expect you to behave in professional ways – it is very easy to accidentally damage external relationships if not, and this makes arranging future projects very difficult. Everybody involved, including the outside guests who attend your project work, understands that you may well be inexperienced and novice at ‘doing education’ – and nobody expects that things will be perfect. Equally, though, there is basic level of professional conduct which is expected of our students in how you conduct yourselves within your teams, and in your interactions with those outside the university. Critical to this is effective communication and reliability; other people are often relying on the work that you do, whether its your project team or guests who are attending your activities – and it is therefore critical that you meet your commitments and deadlines. It is also important that you keep communicating with your project team throughout the process … even if things are going entirely to plan.

Quality Assuring your Work

The final dimension of this blog post relates to the importance of taking every reasonable precaution to ensure that your activities and events run smoothly and effectively. As noted above, we don’t expect everything to always run as you expect (indeed, education rarely works like this!) – however there is an extent to which, with some careful though, you can plan for the unexpected. In lots of ways, this process mirrors that of safeguarding, in that it follows these steps (but focused on things that might disrupt the smooth-running of your work, rather than responding to danger)…

  • Work out everything that could go wrong when your run your activity.
  • Audit each hazard in terms of how likely it is to go wrong, and how damaging it would be if it did.

You can then prioritise responses according to this framework:


… In which you would have very definite fall-back plans to respond to anything red (high likelihood and high impact), and be aware of the possibility of anything yellow. The stuff in green, can be fairly safely deprioritised to give more space to focus on the more risky stuff.

Some Academic Context

Hi EdLabbers,

In this post I’m sharing a few good academic papers which should help you to ground your work in some theoretical or empirical contexts. If you get chance then you could have a read of at least one of these before we meet this Saturday for the second EdLab conference.  Although we haven’t finalised our projects yet I’d suggest reading the papers on Loose Parts and the one on Schemas as any project featuring play and learning at the garden centre could incorporate these theories…see which one appeals to you most.

mud kitchen

Loose Parts is seeing somewhat of a comeback in formal education settings but is often misinterpreted in my experience and becomes prescriptive and craft based. Here is the original paper on Loose Parts by Simon Nicholson from way back in 1972 which demonstrates where the concept arose from: Loose Parts Nicholson

Here is a more up to date review which primary teachers are m ore likely to use: Let the Children Play


Lastly this is a good paper on Schemas by Susan Harper which gives a great introduction to how the garden centre provides all sorts of opportunities for children to do things that a classroom simply cannot provide: Schemas in Areas of Play


Reminder: Preparation for Conference #2

Don’t forget that we have our second conference on Saturday so please do set some time aside to get your EdLab work on track. I hope that some of you have already started your blogs so you could add some reflections to them this week based on the reading above and then again after Saturday. If you haven’t yet started your blog you’re creating a bit of a thought jam! By the end of this next conference each of our mini projects will be finalised and we have put together a roadmap for subsequent activity – we will be full steam ahead for a few months…

Task: Integrating Reading

Produce at least one blog post which responds to something from the texts shared above. Refer to the previous blog post for guidance on the way you should approach your reading – and remember; we’re not interested in what the paper says, we’re interested in the way you put it to work (how does it help you think about the things you’re doing in your project)

How Does Reading Fit In

In previous posts, we have discussed the pedagogy that underpins EdLab – the ways in which it encourages you to generate theoretical understandings of education on the basis of your enacted experiences running projects. There is no pre-defined knowledge, and you are not expected to demonstrate any specific understandings of content or ideas – what matters is the way in which you develop a rigorous and critical sense of what it is you are producing through your projects.

This is, however, not to say that we do not expect you to undertake outside reading in support of the unit. In part, this will take the form of sleuthing other educational initiatives from which you can take inspiration. It should, however, also involve more conventional academic reading which should be used to inspire deeper analysis of the work that you do, and provide languages to talk about that work in more sophisticated ways. Here are some quick and dirty tips for engaging with reading in ways which will support the EdLab process;

  • Its not what it says, its what it makes you think. Try to avoid an impulse to be able to describe what the author is saying verbatim. Instead, find bits of the writing that make you think things (particularly if they affect how you are thinking about your project).
  • One sentence is enough. Often, students find themselves trying to respond to the whole paper. In some cases, this is appropriate – but equally it might be that one particular thing that the author says (it might even be just one statement) is enough to provoke a useful response.
  • Don’t punish yourself. If you are finding reading hard going, don’t blame yourself! Often, it’s because it is dense (and badly written). Don’t read and reread the same paragraph over and over again if you don’t understand it – read on, and find the bit that does talk to you.
  • Stop and write – particularly if you find yourself struck by a thought. Don’t lose that thinking by finishing the paper; go and write a blog post which starts with a quote from the article, and proceeds with a brain-dump of your thoughts. Then finish the paper.

In the next post, your project coordinator will share a couple of sources that might get you started in this process … but do try to do some independent hunting for sources too!

Reflections on our First Conference

It was great to meet some of you last Saturday and I found the conference really inspiring so hope you did too. I liked the way we were able to tie the ideas from the Grimm and Co presentation into our plans for the garden centre and pleased that we managed to squeeze in a quick visit to the garden centre.



Task #1: Sustaining Creativity

I’m thinking that most of you will be spending time with, or chatting to, family over the festive season so please do try and explore some of the narrative that we briefly touched on around risk, playing out and sparking imagination in non-structured ways through play and outdoor exploration. When you’ve had enough of Xmas telly why not watch this short film about my ideal playground The Land I guarantee it will challenge you to rethink risk!

I also thought it might be interesting for us all to read a bit about Reggio schools so we can do some comparisons between English education and Angelo’s schooling. This article handily popped up on Facebook timeline this week so I’m going to read it! Reggio schools article

If possible I’d really like us to meet up before the next conference (which is on Sat Jan 19th) so I will create a doodlepoll which I will share on WhatsApp so make sure you get those phone numbers to me ASAP… 07984 585375

At this session we will talk more about our project ideas and decide which we will take forward and assign teams and roles. Here’s a brief summary of what we did…

EdLab conference 1 notes

Looking forward to meeting you all again – keep in touch. I’m also really looking forward to getting blog links off all of you, nudge, nudge. My email is

Meanwhile have a happy Christmas, a fab festive break or just a nice rest and don’t forget to find time to play out 🙂

If you’re around for the next week or so do try to pop in to the garden centre, do the Stick Man trail (no cheating!) and maybe join in with some festive crafting. If you haven’t already done your volunteer induction then you would ideally so this on Thursday 13th as this will be last one before Christmas. Hope to see you all soon, Rach


Hello everyone

I have added some pictures I took from the visit to the Garden Centre during conference 1 (See above).  Hopefully, they will provide some colour, inspiration and fun to our blog.

Make sure that you continue to take pictures and upload them here, images are a great way to highlight discussions and bring stories to life.







Interrogating Pedagogy


Pedagogy is the word that educationalists use to describe the relationships between the approach that teachers use (and the strategies and structures they employ) and the conceptual underpinnings of those approaches. These foundations are made up of all sorts of theoretical influences – including the teacher’s political/ethical commitments; their philosophical and empirical position on the qualities of effective teaching and learning, together with ‘big theories’ which have influenced that thinking. Interrogating ‘pedagogy’ and your own pedagogic positions is, therefore, a critical feature of development as an educational professional. To extend your thinking about the nature of pedagogy further, you might want to read the following online article, and pursue some of the readings identified in its bibliography:

Smith, Mark (2012). What is Pedagogy.

EdLab has a Pedagogy

The work we do (and you do) as part of EdLab is also underpinned by particular pedagogies. Most fundamentally, it is about doing things – we evaluate our success, in part, on the basis of having created engaging and exciting educational experiences for our local communities. But it is also about thinking about things; about using your experience ‘doing stuff’ as a means to generated situated understandings of what education is and does and can or could b

This positions the relationship between theory and practice in a particular way – and this carries implications for how you should think about your learning (and how we have to assess that learning). It disrupts a pretty dominant theory-to-practice convention – in which you’d be taught some ‘big ideas’, expected to demonstrate a competence in them and only then apply them to practice (incidentally, think about the apprenticeship model of a degree in these terms). This is based in on a mind-to-body construct of the learner – something that the emphasis on enactment in EdLab rejects. Instead, we think you can do stuff, and that the act of doing allows particular understandings to coalesce and emerge.

This doesn’t negate the importance of theory, of course; it is absolutely critical that you leave the unit not just with a warm feeling of having done nice things, but also with some critical ideas about what education can be. You need to be active in producing theory as you go along, reflecting on your activity in order to arrive at some transferable positions and understandings. The Brazilian educationalist Paulo Freire puts this really nicely;

Critical reflection on practice is a requirement of the relationship between theory and practice. Otherwise theory becomes simply “blah, blah, blah,” and practice, pure activism. Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of Freedom

The importance of student-level theorising does not, of course, negate the value of big external theory – or reading the thoughts of others. This becomes critical as a mechanism to enhance and extend your own thinking – in ways we will explore later in the course.

This positioning then, brings with it expectations of you – but also of us. It means that we’re not really looking for ‘facsimile’  in our assessments. In other words, we don’t need to see that you have understood any particular theory or idea. What is more important is the productive elements – the ideas you have generated, and the ways they interact with a broader community of thinkers practitioners. Of course, some people may well see this not very innovative at all … it sounds a bit like a description of how academic communities are meant to operate.

Task #2: Reflection Activity

With all of this in mind, now is a good time to start to think about your own pedagogy – about the kinds of commitments and orientations you may have as a practitioners. We would like you to produce a blog post exploring this in reference to the project with which you are involved. What kinds of quality of educational experience are you hoping to deliver? How do these things correspond to your commitments and principles about what education can and should be in general.

In producing this blog post, we do not expect evidence of extended reading. However, it might be helpful to find some educational thinkers who have ideas which seem to resonate with your own commitments. Here is a useful source to support this;

Palmer et al. (2001). Fifty Major Thinkers on Education: From Confucius to Dewey. London: Routledge.

A Creative Spark

Development work on your project will begin at the first EdLab conference on the 1st December. Whilst the day will include a couple of keynote lectures on educational entrepreneurship and creativity, a large part of the day will be given over to project teams to start to come up with some creative ideas and directions for their work. We are keen that your creative energy is central to what we end up doing – and as such, we would like you to come to the day armed with your own thinking and an initial piece of work. The purpose of this blog post is to set out some tasks which help you to do this by thinking equally about practical ideas and underlying principles.

Environmental Play Project

In this project, we will design and facilitate outdoor learning experiences in collaboration with Hulme Community Garden Centre – a social enterprise with excellent educational facilities, and a strong track record in working with young people to engage them with nature, growing and the outdoors. Their work includes use of Forest School methods, open exploration of natural spaces, environmental arts and the use of ‘loose parts play’.

EdLab students will have the opportunity to support existing work at the Garden Centre, and to propose and design activities to enhance that opportunity. The centre already has a well developed programme of regular toddler sessions and community days. There are also opportunities to develop an after-school club with Rolls Crescent Primary, and to develop further activities focused on Secondary and Community education.

Through this project, you will explore environmental education; methods and approaches to engage people more closely with the natural world. More broadly, you will be provided with a platform through which to interrogate the value of outdoor, embodied, unstructured and exploratory learning.

A few words from Rachel…

Hi I’m Rachel Summerscales and am the Centre Manager at Hulme Community Garden Centre which is just over the road from HCGC – maybe you’ve already been in to explore? As well as managing all the activities that we deliver (see our website here ) I am also passionate about play as you will find out on Saturday!

At Hulme Community Garden Centre (HCGC) we aim to promote outdoor play that is not reliant on prescriptive play equipment (such as swings and slides) or games/toys (such as Lego kits or craft kits). We have a very stringent environmental policy which actively promotes the 3 R’s: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle and aim to be as plastic free as possible. In our plant growing, procurement and product choice this is fairly simple to enact but how do we ensure that this policy continues through play?

There are 3 main audiences for play at HCGC:

  1. Toddlers who attend our weekly Garden Explorers session
  2. Families who simply visit the centre or attend one of our free community events
  3. School children who visit as part of a class trip – can we offer curriculum based activities as well as introducing outdoor play aspects (by stealth!).

You’ll find out lots more about the centre on Saturday as we’ll pop over for a visit in the afternoon…wrap up warm.

Task One: Set up a Blog

Please set up a blog on – we’ll be asking you to use this for your project reflections. When selecting options when signing up, you can always select a free option. And you don’t have to use your real name or upload any picture of yourself.

Task Two: A Paper Project

Prior to the 1st conference on the 2nd December, we would like you to come with a few ideas of your own.  Consider the following questions and be prepared to share your thoughts when we get together on Saturday at the conference.

  1.  What would you like to experience / achieve from your participation in the project?
  2. How do you like to engage with or explore new things in the natural world?
  3. Have you worked with children or young people in the outdoors before? Would you like to share your experiences?
  4. Do you have any initial ideas for a project that you would like to create at the garden centre? (Think about creative, engaging, building, exploratory activities..oh and MUDDY!)



1st December: EdLab Conference #1

Just a quick reminder that the first EdLab conference will take place in the Brooks Building on the 1st December between 10am and 3pm. The conferences represent a really important opportunity (often one of the only opportunities) for all members of a project team to work together for an extended period of time. The focus of the day will be an introduction to creative and entrepreneurial education

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