Goodstart Little Mountain is a non-for-profit early learning centre consisting of 3 nature inspired classrooms led by experienced and dedicated early learning professionals.
Our facilities offer 3 separate playgrounds featuring sandpits, a rock river bed, a unique cubby house, mud digging patch, worm farms, thriving vegetable gardens and more. We run a progressive indoor/outdoor program 52 weeks a year.
We offer an off-site bush kinder program which runs on a weekly basis with children attending on a rotating roster. The program encourages children to develop an appreciation for the natural environment while building on all aspects of their development.
Address: 55 Mark Rd West, Little Mountain QLD 4551
At Goodstart Little Mountain our educators have always enjoyed being outdoors. We understand that children feel the same and that significant learning occurs in this space. The centre’s Educational Leader, Suzy Fletcher says that “We recognised that change was needed when we analysed the AEDC data for our local community and identified a deficit in physical wellbeing. We already ran a progressive indoor / outdoor program all day and had introduced a specific intentional perceptual motor program with the aim of keeping our children physically active, however we wanted to do more to ensure best outcomes for the children in our community.”
The team reflected on our local environment and decided to engage in a Bush Kindy program at a nature park just down the street. We researched the benefits of nature play and researched other countries such as Sweden, the UK and New Zealand and their implementation. We also looked closer to home and engaged with and consulted with other local centres who were already running Bush Kindy programs. We sourced further advice and information from Nature Play QLD and Natureweavers to support us in the development of our own Nature program.
Centre Director Tammy Belshaw says that safety was in the forefront of her mind and that consultation with Goodstart’s health and safety advisers, Natureplay QLD and other bush kinder providers was pivotal to ensuring that we completed thorough risk assessments and considerations before commencing the program.
We consulted all of our families and compiled information to share with them about the risk v’s benefit for the children. An information evening was held to ensure families were given opportunity to discuss the program and to gain their perspective and feedback. We were overwhelmed by their unanimous support of the idea.
We did a thorough walk through of the local area where we would be visiting with the children and were presented with many different opportunities for exploration.
We were welcomed by large areas of grass, trees to climb, water ways and big drain pipes. A beautiful big flame tree would be the meeting point where we could decide what learning and exploration would happen for the day. We tried to keep a clear mind as we wanted it to be the children’s adventure not ours.
Grassy fields allow for running and exploration!
On our first bush kinder adventure the children walked across the bridge and immediately started saying “Trip, Trap, Trip, Trap”. Re-telling one of their favourite stories “Three Billy Goats Gruff,” they wanted to know if there was a troll under the bridge and this became a popular theme of our weekly visits to the area.
The children have continued troll hunting, building traps to catch the troll and leaving seed pods and berries for him. They are thrilled when we return and the trap is gone or the offerings have been eaten.
Hunting for trolls! Building a troll trap!
When we are not hunting trolls we are exploring the environment and observing seasonal changes i.e. seed pods opening, flowers blooming, berries changing colour, tadpoles arriving.
We jump in puddles and explore the water ways after the rain and run through the mud. We paint, draw and read. We play soccer and cricket in big open spaces where we can just run and run.
Part of our bush kinder ritual is to begin our visit with our acknowledgement to country. We value and respect the local custodians of the land – the Gubbi Gubbi people and support children to be respectful of the land on which we play.
We work with children to help them to develop an understanding of the impact we can have on environments and how can care for our land.
Acknowledging country - “Wunya!”
During our bush kinder journey we have seen some amazing development within all of our children. Generally children are all more relaxed when out and about exploring nature. We have seen their physical development grow as they negotiate nature i.e. Learning to climb a tree and engaging in physically active play. They are developing an understanding of appropriate risk taking and developing an understanding of their own abilities. There is a marked increase in the children’s social skills and emotional wellbeing. Children who may be shy or reserved are displaying confidence as they jump in puddles, run through the mud or take on the challenge of climbing the large flame tree.
Children and educators regularly document our bush kindy journey and these journals are often revisited and reflected upon.
The children are learning that they are valued citizens in their local community and are building connections outside the centre. The local postman and bus driver beep their horns when they see the children and the children interact with people out in the community that we see during our walks. They are developing an understanding that they have a social responsibility when we are out. They are also advocating for the important role of nature and the significant impact this has on developing the community.
The benefits of bush kinder are recognised at the service also. The children have developed a greater appreciation for our class environment and are responsible for caring for our class pets and our herb and vegetable gardens. Resources such as seedpods, bark, sticks and leaves which we collect from bush kinder have also become a favourite resource for children to use in their play.
We have recently extended the program to include our Toddler class and this has again seen great support from families.
Our hopes for the future are to take our babies on bush kinder walks and to perhaps offer more extended periods at Bush Kinder for our older children.
It is very rewarding for the team at Goodstart Mark Road West to see the positive effect our bush kinder program and natural play environments have had on children’s learning, development, relationships and well-being.