Understanding the World

The new statutory framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage (September 2021) states:

"Understanding the World involves guiding children to make sense of their physical world and their community. The frequency and range of children's personal experiences increases their knowledge and sense of the world around them - from visiting parks, libraries and museums to meeting important members of society such as police officers, nurses and firefighters. In addition, listening to a broad selection of stories, non-fiction, rhymes and poems will foster their understanding of our culturally, socially, technologically and ecologically diverse world. As well as building important knowledge, this extends their familiarity with words that support understanding across domains. Enriching and widening children’s vocabulary will support later reading comprehension".

At Fairfield we further believe that learning about Understanding the World is integral to the children's understanding of their own theories and enquiries. Jerome Bruner stated that:

"What is unique about human learning is its dedication to possibility....the act of learning carries us beyond what we have encountered and propels us into the realm of the possible. The human learning process is not simply about acquiring knowledge about what we have encountered: it is dedicated to 'going beyond the information given".

In collaboration with adults our children are supported to notice the similarities and differences in the world around them through meaningful first hand experiences. As our children question everything they see, if the explanation they get is too complicated they begin to come up with their own theories (Gopnik & Wellman, 2012). The many ways in which children do this to help increase their learning and development include investigating by touching, holding or pressing things and by climbing on and jumping off things using all of their senses as well as testing and talking about different ideas and theories.

Our Understanding the World Curriculum offers chances to explore and experiment, observe, problem solve, predict, think critically, discuss and make decisions. Our children also learn about the world around them through visiting different places and their own home environment and having conversations about what they observe. They use technology to find information, document their enquiries, collect information and deepen their knowledge and understanding of the world around them. Our children are taught online safety.


The new Early Learning Goals are:

ELG: Past and Present

Children at the expected level of development will:

  • Talk about the lives of the people around them and their roles in society;

  • Know some similarities and differences between things in the past and now, drawing on their experiences and what has been read in class;

  • Understand the past through settings, characters and events encountered in books read in class and storytelling.


ELG: People, Culture and Communities

Children at the expected level of development will:

  • Describe their immediate environment using knowledge from observation, discussion, stories, non-fiction texts and maps;

  • Know some similarities and differences between different religious and cultural communities in this country, drawing on their experiences and what has been read in class;

  • Explain some similarities and differences between life in this country and life in other countries, drawing on knowledge from stories, non-fiction texts and - when appropriate - maps.


ELG: The Natural World

Children at the expected level of development will:

  • Explore the natural world around them, making observations and drawing pictures of animals and plants;

  • Know some similarities and differences between the natural world around them and contrasting environments, drawing on their experiences and what has been read in class;

  • Understand some important processes and changes in the natural world around them, including the seasons and changing states of matter.

Our Key Learning and focus on teaching for each element of Understanding The World focuses on the statutory framework and beyond, encompassing scientific knowledge and technology:

People Culture and Communities

  • Communication
  • Respect
  • Observe
  • Describe
  • Research
  • Vocabulary

Past and Present

  • Communication
  • Observe
  • Describe
  • Research
  • Chronology
  • Vocabulary

The World:


  • Explore/ Observe
  • Describe
  • Record
  • Questioning
  • Explain
  • Research
  • Equipment & Measures
  • Compare/Sort/Group/Identify/ Classify

The Natural World

  • Communication
  • Mapping
  • Fieldwork
  • Enquiry
  • Use of Technology


  • Text & Digital Imagery
  • Audio
  • Data Handling
  • Using Sensors
  • Online Safety
  • Electronic Programming
  • Simulations & modelling


The implementation and impact of our Understanding the World curriculum can be seen through our Image of the Child. Examples of how we implement our Understanding the World curriculum include daily outdoor access and a weekly session in our woods, visits in the local community and beyond including family visits to the seaside, visits from people in the community, daily use of technology to support fascinations and lines of enquiry and well planned high quality continuous provision and project explorations.


Understanding the World Curriculum

Technology Curriculum