A trip of a lifetime

13th September 2017

Last month two members of our team visited Nakuru in Kenya, home to the school The Big Build Kenya, in partnership with Chichester College, have been building. For Lauren, from our Bersted nursery, and Elora at our Brinsbury nursery, it was an experience of a lifetime.

Thanks to all of our fantastic children, their families, our staff and friends, we have raised a huge amount of money towards this project over the last year and whilst Elora and Lauren were in Kenya they officially opened the new school and the First Steps Classroom on behalf of us all.

We wanted to find out more about their experience …

 

Was the trip what you expected?

Lauren: “As much as you prepare yourself for the trip by attending the college meetings and researching websites, you’ll never know what to expect in Kenya until you are there and actually experiencing it.”

Elora: “The trip was more than I expected, I would do this trip a million times over! We saw some great sights and it was amazing to see the classroom that the money we all raised built. For me the trip was extra special as I was with some amazing people.  I shall hold these memories forever.”

 

 What was the highlight for you?

Lauren: “My highlights were being greeted by the happiest group of children and seeing the excitement when we arrived every day at the project! But there were so many more – finishing the school and classroom ready in time for the opening ceremony,  getting to experience teaching in class, stepping over the equator and going on safari.”

Elora: “The highlight of the trip for me was seeing the children every day at the Walk Centre and how happy they were to be there. It also made me realise what we all have at home and how much we take for granted.”

 

 What did you find hardest?

Lauren: “Going to the rubbish dump was the hardest bit for me, knowing that the majority of the children from The Walk and Prisons Primary lived there was heart breaking. Even then, they were still so happy to show us where they lived though. Although it was raining, we all wore sunglasses to hide our emotions – because to them, it’s their everyday life.”

Elora: “I think I found the toilets one of the hardest things…. boy was I glad to get home and use a toilet properly and not have to remember to take tissue with me or hold my nose!!

“I found the rubbish dump really challenging – the children were so happy to let us in to their homes and show us where they lived, yet they have nothing. Often 7 to 10 people live in a tiny shack they make out of the rubbish around them or whatever they can find. This is why the walk centre is so good for the children as 70% of them live on the dump and when they come to school they get a hot meal every day.”

 

Would you do it again?

Lauren: “Would I do it again? Most definitely, yes!! It’s a totally different way of life and I loved every minute (even though we had stew for lunch and dinner most days!) To be able to step outside the world of normality into a whole new culture and way of life was just an incredible journey! It was a once in a lifetime trip and I have learned so much from it!”

Elora: “YES I definitely would go again!!!!! I think everyone should experience it as I have got memories that I shall cherish forever. I can’t put into words what the experience meant to me and I’m sure everyone will have a difference experience but I am so pleased I had the opportunity to go.”

 

If you could sum up your experience in one line, what would it be?

Lauren: “The most overwhelming, eye-opening, emotional, amazing, funny, stew-filled journey!

Elora: “An amazing experience and one that I shall never forget, there will always be a piece of me there!”

Meet … Connor Bowley

12th July 2017

The latest in our ‘meet the team’ blog series features Connor, who after more than five years with First Steps, joined our Brinsbury nursery earlier this year.

As one of only a handful of male Childcare Assistants at First Steps, and having worked at each of our nurseries during his time with us, we thought it would be good to find out a little more about Connor…

 

When did you first join First Steps?

I first joined First Steps in 2013 as a student at the Chichester nursery working 2 days a week.

 

What made you decide on childcare as a career path?

I was going to go into care work for my best friend so started to get the qualifications I needed. One of the placements was at First Steps Chichester and so it began…!

 

As we know, childcare tends to be female dominated. Are people surprised when you say you work in a nursery and why do you think there aren’t more men following this path?

Yes, when I say I work in a nursery it is automatically assumed I work in a plant nursery! There really aren’t many men in this career so people are quick to judge.

 

What’s the funniest thing a child has said to you?

Are you Kristoff?

(We think Connor does look a little like Kristoff actually!)

 

Having worked at each of our nurseries at some point and with First Steps for a number of years, what do you think makes us different to other nurseries?

I feel the main difference is that we are very child focused and really think about each child’s experience. We have fantastic resources and dedicated staff that challenge, motivate and inspire the children, encouraging them to be confident, independent and really enjoy their time with us. We have access to great outdoor space, both within our nurseries and on our campuses, and we are always looking at how we can improve and adapt to continue offering the very best.

 

What’s the best thing about working at our Brinsbury setting?

Definitely the location! Our countryside setting is amazing and the children have fantastic access to nature at it’s very best. The children also love our proximity to the Animal Centre and the fact that we can hear dogs, sheep, ducks, ponies and cows from the nursery, as well as watching horses walking by.

 

What do you enjoy doing when you’re not at work?

I enjoy spending time with my family and I love playing rugby.

 

Name three things you’d take with you to a desert island?

A rope, knife and tomato ketchup!

 

What’s your favourite nursery rhyme (and you have to have one!)

Sleeping Bunnies. Or one of the different versions I sing on a daily basis.

(If you visit Brinsbury, you will often hear Connor in full song in Step 2!)

 

And now for some quick fire questions Connor …

 

Tractor or Porsche?

Both please! A tractor because you can go anywhere and it has a lot of power and a Porsche because it is fast and has excellent handling.

 

Pop or rock?

Pop

 

Take-away curry or pizza?

Pizza, everytime!

 

Paw Patrol or Peppa Pig?

Paw Patrol

 

Dog or cat?

Dog

 

Do you have any pets?

No, I used to though.

 

What’s the best holiday you’ve been on?

Either Florida or California. Both were brilliant.

 

Where would you live if you could choose to be anywhere in the world?

America. Florida, California or Hawaii – I love the surfer life style!

 

Do you have a party trick?!

Unfortunately not. Still searching for it!

 

And finally … tell us something we don’t know about you.

I have done a sky dive over Salisbury.

 

Thanks Connor.

Meet…Lauren & Elora who are off to Kenya!

30th January 2017

Two members of our intrepid nursery team are off to Kenya in July to help at the build a school project we have been supporting for the past year with African Adventures.

Lauren Parfoot from our Bersted nursery and Elora Chriss from Brinsbury, both stepped forward when the opportunity arose and are now busy preparing for this exciting adventure. We thought it would be good to get to know them both a bit better and find out why they are looking forward to this once in a lifetime opportunity…

 

Lauren, how long have you worked in childcare and, specifically, at First Steps?

First Steps was my first job in childcare after I had finished my college course. This will be my sixth year working here.

 

And Elora?

I have worked at First Steps for five years – it will be six in August.

 

What do you most enjoy about your jobs?

Lauren – being with the children. Knowing that I have an impact on helping them grow, learn and develop to reach their next milestones and having that continuous bond with them. Nothing beats the hugs, smiley faces, laughter, fabulous imaginations and proud moments I get when they learn something new.

Elora – I really enjoy watching each individual child grow in confidence and independence, watching them move from one milestone to the next is so rewarding.

 

If you could describe yourselves in three words, what would they be?

Elora – Outgoing, fun (that’s only two Elora! We’ve chosen one for you – warm)

Lauren – Ambitious, fun, caring

 

Why did you put yourself forward to go to Kenya Elora?

To gain this once in a lifetime opportunity was amazing – I am very excited to see their way of life and make a change for the better for everyone in their immediate environment.

 

And, Lauren?

I put myself forward to go to Kenya to broaden my horizon and enrich my experiences with new challenges and responsibilities and seeing a whole new way of life. I’m also keen to offer my skills and learn new ones.

 

What are you most looking forward to? 

Lauren: The whole trip! To make this project an absolute success; being part of the building and teaching, I’m excited about the chance to go on safari and I never thought I’d step over the equator! I am looking forward to the different experiences every day will bring. I really can’t wait!

Elora: I am most looking forward to the adventure although I think it is going to be quite a shock when I am there! I am also really looking forward to feeding the giraffes at the sanctuary.

 

How do you think you will be able to support the project whilst you are there?

Elora: By helping others and supporting a great cause, working together to meet new people and make a big difference to their environment.

Lauren: By bringing my knowledge, passion and teaching skills. I will be willing to give everything a go and will put every effort I have in to everything I do.

 

Are you worried about anything?

Lauren: Making sure I get all the right jabs needed, being prepared by having all the malaria preventions I can and being prepared for any emotional challenges we may come across.

Elora: I am really worried about the injections before we go!

 

What are you doing to prepare for the trip?

Lauren: I’ve done lots of research about the trip and about Kenya in general. Also, finding out about which jabs I need and what to take.

Elora: I have been reading up on the area and checking out what we will be doing. I am also keeping in contact with Lauren and have started to get a few bits together that I would like to take with me.

 

What home comforts will you struggle to go without?

Elora: I am really going to miss having a decent shower and my own bed!

Lauren: I will definitely miss my bed, Cadbury’s chocolate and not having a cup of tea!

 

What or who will you miss when you are there?

Lauren: I’ll miss my family, friends, my home comforts and a good roast dinner with all the trimmings!

Elora: I am going to miss my family and friends too. I know that my two dogs are going to miss me!

 

What will you be packing?

Lauren: The every day essentials, as much mosquito prevention products as I can and gifts for the children. Oh, and my camera so I can capture the amazing experiences!

Elora: I am going to be taking plenty of dry shampoo and baby wipes and I will also be taking sun cream.

 

Lauren, what do you think you will learn from this experience?

By stepping outside the world of normality and stepping into a whole new way of life, I think I’ll learn lots of new skills and broaden my knowledge about Kenya and the cultural differences.

 

Our General Manager Michelle Cogger, currently heading up our Bersted nursery, visited Kenya back in July 2013 as a volunteer and has been helping Lauren and Elora prepare for their visit with advice and tips from her experience.

 

Michelle, if you could offer the girls one piece of advice before they head out to Kenya, what would it be?

Throw yourselves whole-heartedly into the experience. Don’t take things too much to heart whilst you are there. You will see extremes of poverty that cannot be described so it can be easy to think how awful it is and feel very sad but it is important not to show that. Remember, this is their life! One of the things that really struck me was how happy everyone was – and that’s something to hold onto. Enjoy – it really is an opportunity of a lifetime.

 

Michelle kept a diary whilst she was in Kenya and we just love her final entry which seems like a perfect way to end this blog:

“And this was the end of my amazing, wonderful, eye-opening, sad, funny, mashed potato, peas and carrot filled Kenya trip.” Michelle

 

We can’t wait to hear all about Lauren and Elora’s experience this summer and look forward to sharing some of their pictures and words with you.

On behalf of everyone at First Steps, we are very proud of you both Lauren and Elora and wish you a fantastic trip. They will be very lucky to have you both there supporting this wonderful project.

And finally, we would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our families who have supported this project and helped raise (and continue to raise) the huge amount of money First Steps have been able to contribute to the build a school fund. None of this would have been possible without you so THANK YOU!

Making Phonics Fun At First Steps

6th December 2016

We are delighted that the lovely Janna, who regularly visits all three of our nurseries introducing Fun Phonics to the children, is our guest blogger this month. Here she tells you a little more about herself and what she does.

 

Fun Phonics for parents

Fun Phonics came about by accident when my son started reception at St Mary’s school in Pulborough. As a parent and qualified primary school teacher, I found myself listening to and helping parents with their concerns about their children’s education. It became apparent to me that many parents were confused about phonics. Consequently, I hired out a village hall and set up a free workshop for parents to actively learn about phonics through games and discussion. I created a Facebook page to promote the event and thus Fun Phonics was born.

 

Fun Phonics for pre-schoolers

Before long, I had interest from many local pre-schools. First Steps were among the first nurseries to ask me to work with their children. I devised a short, but active, phonics session for pre-schoolers, and the children loved it! I use a range of techniques to teach the children including sign, rhyme, alliteration, song, dance and of course PLAY.

 

So how do I help your children? 

I always begin by engaging the children with sounds. I play a variety of sounds and ask the children to identify them. During these sound sessions, the children have been to the ocean and the forest, they have listened to the sounds of birds and insects and they have drummed on saucepans and rattled their shakers. I have developed their ears to hear subtle differences in sounds and this has laid the foundations for their early letter sound recognition.

 

What’s in the bag? 

I have become famous for my song, ‘what’s in the bag?’ https://youtu.be/A9jl4JUGHrk  The children all sing along and put their hands up eagerly to discover what is inside the bag each week. The small objects inside the bag are always linked to the letter sound of the week and the children are becoming experts at hearing the first sound in many words.

 

Sound of the week

The weekly activities, nursery rhymes and stories are always linked to the sound of the week. The children have looked for snakes in the grass, they’ve had tea with tigers and zoomed cars down race tracks, among many other carefully planned activities. I enjoy watching all of the children grow and develop each week.

 

Janna

 

 

Thank you Janna. We at First Steps have no doubt that Fun Phonics plays a big part in helping our children transition smoothly from pre-school to reception and, watching the reaction Janna gets when she arrives each week, shows just how much the children enjoy her sessions!

If you’d like to contact Janna or find out more about Fun Phonics, take a look at her Facebook page https://m.facebook.com/funphonics15/ for fun and friendly help and advice.  Janna urges no one to push children to read, but knows there are loads of fun ways to approach it through play and storytelling. You can also watch Janna’s ‘what’s in the bag?’ YouTube videos with your children https://youtu.be/A9jl4JUGHrk  which are useful guides for parents.

Janna holds regular phonics workshops for parents in many different venues and you might like to subscribe to her website http://www.funphonics.education/ to receive notifications about forthcoming events.

 

If you would like to be a guest blogger for First Steps, please get in touch with lucy.oldham@chichester.ac.uk. We’d love to hear from you.

Meet … Gemma, Childcare Assistant at Brinsbury

31st August 2016

At First Steps, we employ over 60 staff and it is this team of hard working, talented and enthusiastic individuals that make our nurseries such a wonderful place to be. We are extremely proud of them.

To help you get to know the people behind First Steps better, we are launching a ‘meet the team’ series of blogs where we (or our children) will interview them to find out a bit more about them.

This month we are talking to Gemma Woodjetts. Gemma is a Childcare Assistant at First Steps Brinsbury working in Step 3 with our older children. Gemma can often be found reading to the children or splashing in muddle puddles!

Risking a slightly more diverse line of questioning, we thought it would be fun to ask some of our children in Step 3 to interview Gemma so here are Paxton, Amy, Freddie, Poppy, Noah, Frankie, Oscar, Max, Niall, Reg and Jens asking Gemma what really mattered to them:

 

Do you have a pet?

Not now. I did used to have a cat called Smudge though.

 

Do you walk every day?

Not every day, but I do like walking.

 

Where do you go on holiday?

In our caravan. We’ve just been away to Norfolk and went on a canal boat too.

 

Do you make dinner at home?

I do, sometimes for my Daddy too.

 

What’s your favourite food?

Pasta. I especially love lasagne and garlic bread.

 

What else do you do at home?

I enjoy reading and I make cards.

 

Do you like Minions?

Yes, I do.

 

How do you get to nursery?

In my Mummy’s car. It’s blue.

 

Do you have a bike?

Yes, it’s blue and white.

 

What’s your favourite colour?

Purple.

 

Do you like having a bath?

I prefer a shower.

 

Do you do lots of sports?

I like swimming and Zumba.

 

What’s your favourite animal?

A tiger. And I like birds of prey too.

 

Do you have any brothers or sisters?

Yes, I have a younger brother called Alan and a big sister called Kelly.

 

The children also drew a wonderful picture of Gemma.  Thank for being our first ‘meet the team’ subject Gemma.

Watch this space for the next one …