After the resounding success of our recent outdoor kindy week, and the fact it validated so many of our thoughts about the immense importance of providing a natural based outdoor learning environment for our children (not to mention the changes it has been the catalyst to us implementing on a more permanent basis in our learning environment) we were keen to further extend ourselves to include both the wider environment and community.
We wanted to provide a rich learning experience in which the children and their parents could explore the environment together, and in which the children could share and build on the skills and experiences they had so ably adapted to, and made their own, during outdoor week. It was also a chance to provide a common experience for our two separate groups of children. A great lead in to the new structure of our kindy week for the next two terms which will see children from each group merging with the other for one day a fortnight.
We investigated several options in the search for the perfect place to meet our needs – being able to light the campfire, areas to collect sticks and other natural materials, permission to build shelters/forts/cubbies, bushland/forest areas to explore, places to walk, an environment to extend, challenge and yet welcome everyone involved, and access to a toilet.
As a staff group we visited Rocky Creek Hut in Kuipto forest and decided it fitted the brief perfectly. There were sign posted walks, areas to run, places to hide, puddles to jump in, fallen logs to climb, a long drop toilet, pine forest as well as gum trees, the area was rich with natural wonders like pinecones, lots of different fungi growing through the forrest, tunnels of trees, and stumps that reminded us all of fairy castles.
We had a wonderful response to our invitation for parents (grandparents and even a brother) to attend bush kindy with us. Many of the parents, understandably, seemed every bit as excited as their children. The feedback from all the families about their outdoor kindy week experience, and the personal growth they had witnessed in so many of their children, had been incredibly positive. They were all really excited at the prospect of being able to share a snippet of this experience with their children.
One of issues that we had found during outdoor week was many of the children did not have the adequate or appropriate clothing to keep them warm and dry all day while they played. A little online investigation, and a couple of emails later, we found a supplier of quality waterproof clothing (muddlarks), we promptly had samples arrive to show our families, and with in a week, many of our parents had placed orders for waterproof pants to help alleviate this issue. The parent orders, as well as a few sets for kindy and stock for our uniform cupboard were delivered, and have been very positively received. The few pair that we have tested out at kindy have been given that children’s seal of approval for comfort and waterproofness!
Our bush kindy day was filled with excitement as the children demonstrated what a great time they could have learning from and being at one with nature. They quickly adapted the skills and experiences that have now become part of their regular kindy life to this new environment. We had set up a treasure hunt bag for the children to fill (if they wished) while they made their way around the walking trail,
some rope, wool, fabric strips, clay,
a basket of books, a few other tools such as lead pencils, charcoal, clip boards and paper for children to write or draw
should they be motivated to record what ever took their interest.
Prior to setting off for the forest parents were involved in an induction session (as they are on the morning of all our excursions). Expectations of their role, the basic overview of the day and emergency procedures were all explained.
Our day was filled with exploring the forest,
jumping in puddles,
and enjoying the water…
finding special treasures like this fairy toadstool……which was a very important discovery of evidence for our group of fairy detectives!
We explored our sense of balance as we climbed, and swung, and rocked on logs and gates
The fabric strips that had been donated by one of our parents were bought out with the suggestion we could see how long they would be of we joined them together. Well, the children added strip after strip, but little interest was shown in stretching them out! They wove in and out of each other, tangled themselves amongst them, pulled against them, played tug a war, and showed the most amazing group skills, co-operation, problem solving, exploration of so many concepts. The engagement levels, and obvious joy and satisfaction for both the children and adults involved was amazing, and just beautiful to witness and be a part of.
We collected bark and built shelters…
We used the wool to wrap sticks and weave…
We had the campfire burning, and it provided a wonderful meeting place for small groups during the day.
We cooked sausages, and shared hot milo as we came together for a story, and to be involved in a re-enactment of one of our favourite songs – goldilocks and the three bears, at the conclusion of our day.
We were all very tired, but happy, as we helped Roger pack up the bus and head back to kindy.