An Outdoor Classroom
I am the Director and a teacher at Kenmore District Kindergarten, which is located in the western suburbs of Brisbane. I first found out about Nature Pay QLD when I joined our beautiful community Kindy in 2014. We feel privileged to have such wonderful grounds at our Kindy, with lots of lush green grass, a variety of trees, big rocks and cool, shady areas. At our Kindy we value nature and work hard to maintain the natural feel of our playgrounds because we have an understanding that the natural world can provide a variety of sensorial and cognitive experiences for young children. We find that the children that we teach are calm and content in our outside classroom because there is more space available to them with sunshine, fresh air and physical activity, which all encourage good moods.
Empowering Their Creativity
According to the 'Theory of Loose Parts', play behaviour in the playground with loose rocks, logs and water is limitless and more imaginative. For many years, we have been collecting a variety of natural resources such as planks, pebbles, pipes, crates, shells and seed pods and made them available for the children’s creative play. Being an educator, it is a great joy to observe as their imaginations spark their creativity by using these loose parts and see them being creative outdoors with open ended, uninterrupted play opportunities.
Caring for Vegetable and Bush Tucker Gardens
Over the years, we have worked with the children at our Kindy along with our local community to develop vegetable and bush tucker gardens. These areas help to build the children’s understanding of nutrition and caring for our environment. It is very satisfying for them to see the produce that they have assisted in growing and also to use it in their baking activities. I found it interesting learning alongside the children about bush tucker and about the indigenous tribes in Australia. Together we found out about the Jagera and Turrbal people, whose traditional lands and hunting grounds extended around the Brisbane River. One of the tribes favourite fruits was the Midyim Berry which we now have in our gardens. We get very excited when we notice the little white berries starting to grow and the children enjoy picking, washing and eating them.
Native Stingless Bees
Indigenous Australians have been harvesting food from the bush for thousands of years, and sugar bag honey from native Australian bees is a popular form of bush tucker. We are lucky to have a few native bee hives within our grounds, one is a natural hive in a log and two are box hives. The children can observe the bees coming in and out of the hives and learn that all life is important no matter how small. The children learn to be very gentle and not to disturb the hives, and they are challenged to look carefully on the stingless bee’s legs for the pollen they have collected into little balls. Last year we invited Dr Toby Smith, from Bee Aware Kids, to speak to the children about the importance of bees and to demonstrate splitting and robbing the hives. These are two fascinating processes to witness and after the visit the children were able to taste the honey that he had extracted. The children used it to make honey cake and biscuits.
Fresh Water Bugs
I first read about Sue Jones from Waterbug Wonders in one of the Nature Play QLD newsletters and invited her to visit our Kindy in 2016. Sue was well prepared for her visit and brought along dishes of creek water containing interesting fresh water bugs. The children enjoyed capturing these bugs and putting them into vials for observation. We all enjoyed the incursion so much that we have Sue visiting our Kindy again this year.
Connections with Primary School
Our back gate opens onto Kenmore State School’s oval, which extends into an environmental area with little pathways, fruit trees and vines. It is a large, quiet, shaded space surrounded by natural colours, textures and plants for the children to explore. Last year, while learning about nature art and the work of Andy Goldsworthy, we took the children for a walk through this environmental area. The children were encouraged to find natural items to use in their own ephemeral art works. In smaller groups, guided by an adult, the children used their materials to make patterns, mandalas or a weaving. It was fantastic seeing all the children completely engaged throughout this activity.
Outcomes and Conclusion
All of our nature play activities link up perfectly with the national curriculum outcomes because through this type of play, children develop all the necessary skills to become independent, caring, creative, social, patient and confident learners. Playing outdoors not only builds children’s love of nature but also builds on their social, emotional and cognitive development and their wellbeing. To the educators out there, look for opportunities to extend your outdoors further; do you have a neighbouring school, creek, bush or parklands that could possibly be used for nature play? If this isn’t an option, look for quality incursions such as Waterbug Wonders and Bee Aware Kids or find out other ideas from the Nature Play QLD's website.
How Can Nature Play QLD Help?
If you're an educator and would like help integrating more outdoor learning elements into your school or service, check out some of our Nature Play QLD workshops for educators:
Forest School is about teaching children using the outdoor environment, the ethos is about promoting confidence, self esteem and independence through small achievable tasks. Forest School can be applied to all age groups and abilities and can be linked to the Australian National Curriculum and Early Years Learning Framework.
This workshop is for Primary School Teachers, Principals, and Deputy Principals, with all workshop content and modules mapped to the Australian National Curriculum (ACARA) and Australian Professional Standards for Teachers (AITSL).