Parent, Teaching Assistant and Enthusiast
Carrie Priestley is a 50 Things Enthusiast. Carrie first encountered 50 Things to Do Before You’re 5 while on maternity leave, as a mum to Amber and Olly. A Teaching Assistant in a large EYFS Unit in an all-through school in Bradford, Carrie now leads the 50 Things project at school.
With first-hand experience of raising young children at home, combined with a professional understanding of how children learn, Carrie is able to speak with authority and enthusiasm about why the experiences of 50 Things to Do Before You’re Five is a wonderful resource to families across the UK.
50 Things for Parents and Carers
A Personal Perspective
Discovering the magic of 50 Things…
Carrie discovered the 50 Things App while on maternity leave. She quickly found the benefits not just for uncovering great activities, but for helping her two children to bond.
“When the 50 Things app came out I had a nosy at it. It was something I really wanted to get on board with. Amber was 5 at the time and I was on maternity leave from my work in school.
“I think it was really nice that Amber enjoyed it, but it also gave her and Olly bonding time. In the early days I had to do a lot of it for Olly but the 50 Things was something Amber could look at and think, ‘oh let’s do this one today’.
We tried the early activities like “Where Am I?” or “Getting to Know You” and even “Woodland Wandering”. They were all great excuses to get in a push chair and go for a walk. That’s something Amber could enjoy as well.
“A lot of places like woodlands I already knew about because of Amber but then the app is really useful… because there were places we hadn’t been before, especially like in the parks.”
Spreading the magic through social media…
Carrie has set up a wonderful Instagram account (@50thingstodotoday) and this is one of the many ways she engages with the project.
“I realised I was putting lots of [social media posts] about 50 Things, and I upload to Facebook a lot and then I thought that's not really Facebook. My Facebook is closed and it's personal. I set up an Instagram of Amber and Olly. I do post things that I've done at my [school] setting but never with the children in them. Just a bit of an adventure of what Amber and Olly been up to and how many enthusiasts can come up with ideas about that.”
Getting the community involved…
In the run up to Christmas, Carrie took part in her local church’s Christmas tree festival. She saw it as a great way to grow the profile of 50 Things within the community.
“I thought it was a really good idea to promote 50 Things and Amber was super excited. We made a lot of handmade decorations and this year we got them back out, we kept the originals as Amber was keen to keep them and every night she was like ‘Could we make more?’.
“It was all Amber’s idea. We put a lot of pebbles under the tree so people could take away and paint them [for the local painted rocks project where people can leave a home-painted rock; children find them, photograph and post it on social media, then re-hide] hashtag 50 Things.”
Carrie engaged with parents, grandparents, people who ran local playgroups and childminders at the event.
Carrie believes 50 Things is also a useful framework for the local playgroup, which is run on a very small budget by volunteers.
50 Things in School
A Professional Perspective
Getting the school involved in 50 Things…
As well as working as an Enthusiast for the project and doing really thoughtful work with her own two children – coming up with original ideas and thinking about her location and what was happening in the community – when Carrie went back to work after her maternity leave, she took 50 Things to the school where she works.
“I had emailed my boss to say I am going to apply to be an Enthusiast. Is this ok with you? She thought it was a good idea and then later [a government-funded project] was brought in by 50 Things to her schools, so then she asked me to be the lead person for our school to lead on the project. The clusters of schools all meet once every couple of months. Different settings within the cluster.”
Reaching out through school, families and the community…
Beyond the launch event, Carrie keeps momentum going with other events and engagement strategies. These have benefitted from donations from local businesses giving items for goodie bags, fireworks and items for both the table-top and outdoor activities.
“We have parent workshops.
“We're all going to run a Christmas craft event so we can do ‘Make Your Mark’ ‘Mini Artist’ ‘Rough and Smooth’ we will make salt dough decorations and just have a nice family afternoon.”
The school has high expectations that parents will attend the workshops.
Having asked the parents whether it would be of interest, and what time of day would be best, parents are given a month’s notice of events, to make it easier for those who are working to book time off.
The school is two-form entry and Carrie explained that they have a really high engagement rate from parents.
Focus and passion lead to great results…
Each class in the EYFS has a 50 Things display in the doorway, and the school gives a 50 Things poster to every family.
Carrie thinks that having a person leading the project within the school is a powerful way to raise its profile.
“I think there's so much going on in the day-to-day running of the school and so many people are leading on different things. If everyone just had their own little saying, I think it could slip under the radar. If someone is appointed a lead for it, that’s always in the forefront of their mind. It’s their passion.
“I cannot speak for other schools in the cluster but the team I work with are supportive. They will run with events and they all get behind it. They promote it on the doors with parents. I think it works really well with one person but then to give other people a chance to give their ideas too. Recently, I'd put the idea forward and said how about we do this, bonfire night’s coming up. Sophie said that’s a brilliant idea and we could link it with baking. So we made little treats in class and sold them before the fireworks for a small charge. The children did the baking in class, then came in and buy the treats with their families, and watch fireworks. It’s that thing not having someone say ‘Right, this is what we are doing’, it’s being open and then you get better ideas.”
A very real impact…
Something Carrie has been mindful of, is the impact of 50 Things. She believes that the project has benefitted the school, the children and families in fundamental ways.
“We have lots of parents uploading on Tapestry. When parents upload things from home, it’s my responsibility to comment on the link to 50 Things if there is one. So someone went to the Science and Media Museum last week and I was like ‘Oh that’s great, hope you linked it to Happy History’. Just continue drip feeding them and not ramming it in their face. It’s keeping it going.
“We are sending out a focus each half term, not like ‘you must do this’ but just some ideas for one of the 50 Things. This week’s is Sharing Books. We said they will receive a book mark if they get involved. They’ve got the registration packs for the library and we put in a little competition bit in it like ‘what’s the most imaginative place you can find to read?’ It’s a nice one for this time of year to snuggle up with a book. We said send us a picture and let us know your experiences, but that’s new. And lots of our families read stories to their children and it’s that thinking ‘yeah that links with that and I already do that’.”
The longevity of 50 Things…
Carrie’s school has been lucky enough to receive funding to support the roll out of 50 Things. However, Carrie is adamant that even after the funding has finished, her school will continue to run and support 50 Things.
“Our school will! I will make sure they do. I think even though schools have got a bit of funding, a lot of the things on there are free and fit in with the early years curriculum anyway. It’s not something they are being told to do is it? I have always pitched it well from those parent workshops that this is for practitioners as well. It's not just a tool for parents and said even we’re using it in class. I use it with my children. It's a Bradford ‘born here’ project.“
50 Things Project Lead and Workforce Development Leader
50 Things To Do Before You're Five
If you would like to discuss this case study please contact Andrea Layzell using the following contact details:
Bradford BD8 9QW