Jan White, Professor of Practice at UWTSD addresses Early Years Students in Carmarthen


Earlier this month, the University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD) welcomed Jan White, Professor of Practice in Early Years to its Carmarthen campus to deliver a presentation entitled Beyond connecting: Constructing 'ecological identity' through play in nature from birth to seven years.

Jan White, Professor of Practice

Working as an independent consultant across the UK and internationally, Professor Jan White is a leading thinker and writer on outdoor play, an advocate for high quality outdoor provision for services for children from birth to seven, and co-founder/strategic director of Early Childhood Outdoors, the National Centre for Play, Learning and Wellbeing Outdoors.  She was made Professor of Practice by UWTSD this summer.

During her presentation, Professor Jan White spoke to Early Years students and staff about how attachment to the natural world might begin in early childhood, what makes a young child feel at home in nature, and how can the desire to care for our natural environment be nurtured.

“This presentation introduces a developing theoretical framework that scaffolds the construction of 'ecological identity’ as part of the emerging sense of self, through play in nature. Fourteen 'pathways’ have been identified that might make the boundary between self and environment more porous through three deepening layers of interaction,” says Professor White.  “The approach provides a model which can be tested, offering a framework for developing outdoor environments for young children with relevant affordances for play. When 'attachment’ to nature is secure, the child can draw on nature therapeutically, potentially also generating the need to act for environmental stewardship throughout life.”

Professor Jan White holds a first class honours BSc in Soil Science from the University of Reading, an MSc in Ecology from the University of Wales, Bangor and a PGCE in Science and Outdoor Education from the University of Exeter.  With over thirty years’ experience in education, she has developed a deep commitment to the consistently powerful effect of the outdoors on young children.  She has developed national support for early years’ outdoor provision with Learning through Landscapes and Early Excellence, and designed post-graduate courses at the Centre for Research in Early Childhood.

As well as being an Associate with Early Education, a convenor of the Landscapes for Early Childhood national network and an advisory board member for the International Association for Nature Pedagogy, Professor Jan White also provides training, conference keynotes and consultancy for a wide range of early years’ settings.  

Professor White has received national awards for both her books, Playing and Learning Outdoors and Every Child a Mover, is editor of Outdoor Provision in the Early Years and collaborated with Siren Films to make award-winning training DVDs.  Her ground-breaking initiative with MuddyFaces, Making a Mud Kitchen has significantly influenced the outdoor play experiences of young children throughout the UK and is available in ten languages, including Welsh and English.

“We are delighted that Jan accepted our invitation to join the Athrofa at UWTSD as a Professor of Practice and it’s been wonderful to welcome her to speak to our staff and students in Carmarthen,” says Dr Jane Waters, Assistant Dean Research, Associate Professor for Early Years at UWTSD.

“She has dedicated the last two decades to enhancing the experiences of young children outside and has similarly provided exceptional professional learning opportunities for those working with them. She has used her wide-ranging knowledge of related fields of academic thought to articulate a coherent position from which we can understand the value of outdoor experiences for young children and consider how best to provide them; her developing work with ‘ecological identity’ is very exciting indeed.”

Jan White, Professor of Practice

Professor Jan White is pleased to have been made Professor of Practice in recognition of her outstanding leadership and is delighted to be associated with UWTSD.

“Education in Wales and UWSTD each have strengths in several very relevant areas for furthering work in play and learning outdoors.  Education for sustainable development and global citizenship is at the heart of the whole Welsh education system and the Foundation Phase from 3-7 years is firmly situated within this agenda.  The Foundation Phase encourages a play and experiential learning approach that emphasises the outdoors as a learning environment.

“Alongside a well-established and strong Early Years team, together with a strategic emphasis around sustainability, the University’s Yr Athrofa: Institute of Education has recently received accreditation from the Education Workforce Council, making it one of the main providers of teacher education in Wales,” she continues.

Discussing her new role, Professor White talks of her extensive work in the field of Early Years and its impact on her practice:

“Throughout my 30 years in education, I’ve always been driven to closely observe and research children outdoors and to work on my ability to see what is taking place for the child in the outdoors, and what their interaction with and relationship to their environment is.  This underpins my fascination as to why it’s such a powerful environment for young children from birth to seven, and I have constantly used this awareness and understanding to consider how we can best harness the wonderful potential of the outdoors for wellbeing, play and learning, through advocacy, writing, training and developing national packages of support.

“I’m thrilled that this award recognises the importance and dedication of the early years as a sector.  Professor of Practice is a recent innovation in the UK, which the University of Wales is spearheading in several disciplines to honour work done by people working in the field and to bring this practice into the university for the benefit both students and staff.  I believe this is the first time that this status has been bestowed in the field of early childhood education – and I hope one of further awards at this level, thereby raising the status of the informed thinking and researchful practice that we engage in every day.

“I am excited by the opportunities that lie ahead through this relationship with the University.  In particular it will hugely help to drive our strands of work to raise the status and impact of working with the outdoors in early childhood development and education through research, training and qualifications.”

For more information on the Early Years courses offered at UWTSD, please visit www.uwtsd.ac.uk/early-years 

Further Information


For further information, please contact Sian-Elin Davies, Principal Communications and PR Officer on 01267 676908 / 07449 998476 sian-elin.davies@uwtsd.ac.uk