It is stressful being an early years provider, but spark will give you the control back, so all adults involved can strive for outstanding EYFS practice in order to get everything right, ultimately for every child at this time of rapid brain development.

It is stressful being an early years provider, but spark will give you the control back, so all adults involved can strive for outstanding EYFS practice in order to get everything right, ultimately for every child at this time of rapid brain development.
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Insights from Trevor Hawes and Dr. Kathryn Murray   

Long ago, Essex County Council organized annual early years conferences that were highly regarded for their insightful content.

One of these conferences specifically delved into the topic of boys’ learning, shedding light on the distinctions between boys’ and girls’ learning styles.

The speaker at this conference was Trevor Hawes, whose words left a profound impact on me. Considering the predominance of female early years educators, Trevor emphasised the importance of these educators being attuned to the specific needs of boys.

During his presentation, Trevor Hawes expounded on the numerous advantages of learning in outdoor environments. He explained how spending time in nature has a soothing effect on our brains, fostering a state of calmness that is conducive to absorbing new information and engaging in effective learning.

Inspired by Trevor’s insights, we decided to place greater emphasis on outdoor learning at our nurseries. We recognised that the benefits extended beyond the outdoor space alone and made an effort to bring elements of the natural world inside our rooms/classrooms.

This integration aimed to create an environment that reflected the calming and enriching qualities of the outdoors.

To achieve this, we introduced natural sounds as background music every morning from 7.30 am to 10.30 am; setting the tone for a tranquil and peaceful start to the day. These soothing sounds, such as waves crashing, rain falling, birds singing, or farmyard noises, created an atmosphere that was conducive to learning and fostered a sense of calm within the children and even the hurried parents dropping them off.

The impact was noticeable, with even the most harassed parents seeming to depart more peacefully after bidding their children goodbye, clutching their complementary coffee as they headed off to work.

In more recent times, I had the pleasure of encountering Dr. Kathryn Murray, whose insights on brain development and learning resonated as deeply with me.

Dr. Murray shared a similar fascination with the importance of a calm brain for clear thinking and effective learning. She has developed a teaching methodology called “brain-set” that centres around creating calm and relaxed environments to optimise learning outcomes.

Dr. Murray’s approach aligns with Trevor Hawes’ emphasis on educators designing conducive learning spaces, but she expands upon it by considering the transition between different learning spaces. She advocates for setting up multiple areas with the same learning focus, rather than confining children to one designated play area with specific objectives.

Dr. Murray’s ideas are just as captivating as those of Trevor Hawes. If you’re intrigued and eager to learn more about her insights on brain development and learning, I encourage you to grab a drink:


and listen to the recent sparkDEBATE: https://youtu.be/mQTLC0KOd7w (use the cog at the bottom to speed up the video).

Through her research and expertise, Dr. Murray sheds further light on how a conscious understanding of the workings and development of our brains can enhance the quality of learning experiences for both children and educators alike.