Country Kids Childcare is an award-winning Family Daycare service that has been operating in the Cassowary Coast Region for the past nine years. Georgina’s vision is to make Qualified Forest School Learning in Early Childhood Education available to families in the community. Georgina hopes to inspire families and educators to follow Nature Play QLD and to get outside and enjoy the region’s natural spaces on offer. Country Kids Childcare prides itself on … educating children in making a difference. If the next generation can learn to appreciate the beauty and purpose of nature, children will become agents of change in their own environment.
Address: Eubenangee, Cassowary Coast Region North Queensland
Website: Country Kids Childcare Facebook Page
The Seed Was Planted, & What We Grew Was Beautiful
Two decades ago, we packed up and moved our family out of town to the rural suburb of Garradunga, now called Eubenangee. We knew then the quality of our lifestyle for our children would improve, and out-way the time and effort of commuting. We only had two TV channels and a small budget in which technology didn’t factor in to. My four children spent hours kicking balls, going to the creek catching and breeding fish, gardening, digging dirt jumps for their BMX’s and so much more. If only I’d had a crystal ball, I could have predicted the future. Little did I know that twenty years later I was also going to be giving this opportunity to the children of the next generation.
The Nature Play Seed Was Planted
In 2014 I saw an email about Nature Play QLD and they were offering free resources that included their cool passports. I had a lot of boys attending my childcare, and I thought "wow these would be awesome for when we explored the neighbourhood or created mud challenges in the sandpit". It was in 2015 at a workforce Council Conference that I met Hyahno Moser (the Nature Play QLD Program Manager). He was so passionate about nature play and encouraged me to send them my story about how we were doing nature play. For those who know me I get inspired very easily, so Hyahno’s enthusiasm made a big impression on me! From that day on I began to take a more conscientious look at where I could take this concept of nature play. I wanted to be on board this exciting initiative and contribute to the goal of making outdoor play the top of the list in child play.
And It Began To Grow
So that was my light switch moment, the future seemed bright and I could see clearly where I was heading with nature play. I felt like I was on a mission, one of great importance to get the children in my care outside and enjoying nature play just like my children were doing twenty years ago - except now it also included my grandchildren! Three of those grandchildren moved in with us for some time, and when they would come home from school they would state "Baba we are going to do nature play". So no longer were they on such a regimented routine, no longer were baths on the dot at five o’clock, dinner at six and bed at seven. My daughter complained she could never find them as they escaped her calls to come in, lost amongst nature, exploring in the yard.
My grandchildren all attend Country Kids Childcare, and it feels personal and meaningful to have them as part of this journey. They became the test case for our first trip down the creek. My son and I took the gang down to see whether it was going to be suitable to take the other children who attended. For starters it’s a bit of a hike down a rocky road, but there was plenty to see along the way. When we reached the creek, they were beside themselves with excitement, and it wasn’t long before they were exploring, climbing rocks and trying to catch things with the fish net. So, for the next two weeks of the school holidays, parents supported our quest to go to the creek and the children came back tired, wet, hot, but happy. We had caught prawns, nearly lost a shoe down the small rapids, found rubbish that shouldn’t have been there, waded in the water, and set the fish traps for the next visit. Unfortunately because of a crocodile sighting nearby we are no longer able to go to the creek, but memories of our adventures were made, and we can tell the story about how we survived.
So where did we go from here? We were still walking down the subdivision, but we needed more than this. One the way we would pass an overgrown council owned park that has never been used by anyone and adjoins a buffer zone next to the Eubenangee Swamp. The local council had approached me to share with them how I was implementing nature play and Nature Play QLD resources into my program. So I invited them out for a nature scavenger hunt with the children, and we discussed the idea for a nature play space being created on the park. Later on in the year we met again for a couple more meeting down at the park and they liked some of the ideas that I had drawn up on a plan and in return shared with me their plan to create nature play spaces in other areas of our region.
I completed a week long Level 3 Forest School Leader Training Course in Brisbane with Nature Play QLD and the Forest School Learning Initiative (UK), and applied for a permit to use the park and buffer zone for Forest School. This would be the first qualified Forest School in the Cassowary Coast Region. Forest School began, and we’ve completed thirty sessions, the children love it and the parents feel privileged to have their children involved in this new initiative and have begun to see the benefits.
The council started mowing the park more frequently and a public meeting was organised to answer any questions that the residents had. I won’t lie there were some hurdles to jump and there are battles still to be won, not everyone can appreciate the benefits this will have for our community. Fortunately, the Cassowary Coast Regional Council have the same vision and passion as myself - wanting to see the children and families enjoying the beautiful natural environment the region has to offer. I am excited for the future and hope it won’t be too long before we see the launch of two Nature Play spaces in the community.
The Future Looks Big, Bright & Beautiful!
I have now received my Level 3 in Forest School Leadership Certificate and I’m very proud to be an Official Nature Play QLD Education Provider. In 2018 I plan to hold Forest School workshops focussing on building relationships in a natural way, offer half day sessions to home schooled children, and continue to offer a nature enriched play-based learning programme to the families who attend here.
I believe that children’s sense of identity is nurtured within nature’s outdoor classroom, and that if children never get the chance to explore the wonder of our natural world, they will never know how amazing they can be.