It is said the biggest journey starts with the smallest step, and from that step comes monumental change and growth.
A few years ago, Ipswich Family Daycare wanted to change and improve our services towards inspiring intrinsically motivated play and nature play. To step outside the comfortable ‘always done it this way’ thinking, it was important for us to acknowledge that children deserve childhoods that create everlasting moments in time that feed their souls and continue to inspire a ripple effect for our future children’s children.
Exploring mud & its muddiness
From reflections and memories shared of the Ipswich Family Daycare staff of our childhoods, we discovered there were significant commonalities in exposure to nature and the allowance of time in its immergence. From playing along the muddy riverbanks overgrown in mess of tangled vines, with tiny blue beetles skipping across the water’s surface faster than a blink, to a posse of friends making dens hidden from the rest of the world where secrets were shared and visions for the impossible explored.
Our shared stories lead to deep conversation around children in care today in environments and spaces that are predominantly indoors and smothered with adult based learning agendas. How, when we were so active in constructing our own learning at our own pace, unhurried and free, able to delve deep into the reflection of ourselves in a muddy puddle or the delicate sweet smell of the daisy, squirting its juices on fingers dusted in powdery yellow pollen, as we gently pierced the fragile stem to make our princess daisy chain crowns, have we found ourselves in world that values visible educational indicators and outcomes over wellbeing and belonging.
We decided we needed to be leading in the way we guided our educators to listen to and foster children’s inner voice that says:
“Take me outside, I need to be free, I need to run, I need to climb a tree, I need to explore, I need to be me “
This is the pure essence of intrinsically motivated play.
Connection to nature is intrinsic to our very being; it gifts us with delightful memories that dance in our souls like butterflies caught in the summer breeze. This is what we want for our children, and our children’s children.
Thus began our journey into the land of nature play – where children have opportunities to engage in our natural world with freedom and possibilities.
At Ipswich Family Day Care, we have a large space where children come together to engage in play each week. We began to research the positive effects that engagement in nature and outdoor exploration has for children and stumbled upon…..nature pedagogy.
It was perplexing, interesting and exciting. Nature and Pedagogy in the same sentence?! Does that mean that children are actually learning whilst being outside? Does that mean it’s not just a time to get children outside to let off some steam? Does this mean children can go outside when it’s hot, cold, windy, wet or sunny? These are just some of the questions that flooded in when we thought about these powerful words[JP6] – Nature Pedagogy
So we broke it down:
What is Nature: the physical world collectively including plants, animals, and the landscape?
What is Pedagogy: professional practices that promote learning and guiding learning?
To be a Pedagogue: engage in practices that incorporate sharing of knowledge and practices to inform and teach others.
Educator; A person who nurtures children’s whole self through connection with others and our world using practices to inform, teach and guide learning.
Aha a Nature Pedagogue!
Our greatest strength is our educators who each and every day open their doors to children and their families and say welcome, come in, play and let’s discover together. It has been our goal for the past 3 years @ Ipswich Family day care to develop a dedicated team of Nature Pedagogues, who embrace the physical world, share knowledge and practice and nurture children’s whole self through connections. Our outdoor space has undergone a huge transformation and is now a place of discovery for all children within the service to explore, create, adapt and be free. We are on the road from what was to what is … and with small steps we will continue on in our journey to what could be …………..
Nicholsen's Theory of loose parts (1971) plays an integral role in what is offered in our space for children to explore and create with