Nature Connect 2016 – the journey continues

One of the things we love most about our Nature Play journey is the fact that it is an ever evolving program. It is responsive to the diverse needs of each group involved in thier own step of the journey. Through reflective practice, and open communication with all stakeholders, we strive to always stretch ourselves as educators, challenge our children and ourselves, and provide a program that nurtures physical, emotional and intellectual growth. As a staff team we are always striving to move forward, to challenge ourselves, to imbed reflective practice into our everyday routine. We don’t ever want to feel like we have found the best way to do what we do, we want to keep moving forward, pushing boundaries, celebrating the amazing learning that we know happens at our bush kindy sessions, and share the journey with our families.

As our 2015 pilot program finished up last year, we reflected on the achievements and challenges we faced.  We did this as a staff team, through a survey which collected input from parents, helpers, and the children themselves (and had an amazing 100% return rate!) and through individual staff personal reflections.  We created lots of lists, ‘what worked’,  ‘what didn’t’  and ‘ even better if ‘.  It wasn’t until this year that we could really start to put our plans in action.  This program has this group of children as its core focus, and it wasn’t until we could build relationships with them and their families, and ask them what they wanted Nature Connect 2016 to look like that we could move forward any further.  After many discussions we surveyed our families, they were given several options, and each family put forward their preferences.  There was overwhelming support for a model which ran one day a week. Our current format at kindy is a part time model which sees each child attend Tuesday & Wednesday one week and Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday the following week.  Our Bush Kindy sessions will be held on the last day of each kindy week.  Although our pilot program last year ran once a week, we had two groups of children, so each child attended once a fortnight.  This year we are very excited that we will all spend one day a week in nature, and equally excited about the opportunities this will create for getting deeper into experiences the children create, revisiting, building even stronger relationships with each other and the environment, and creating stronger links between our home kindy and bush kindy experiences.

Nature Connect 2016 was launched on the last day of term 1 with a short introductory visit to Bushland Park. Children got to pack and carry their backpacks, wander along one of the trails, enjoy fruit time in the bush, and spend some time playing and exploring the bush. This was this was a great session to ease children into the experience, to create a sense of familiarity, to let them know where bush kindy sessions will be, and to provide them with a short, predictable and secure experience to build from.

This will give those children learning skills to manage their anxiety ( over changes in routines, a different environment, taking new risks etc) a great platform to create a positive association with the park and bush kindy prior to attending the full days.  The children all experienced this session in their own way, and there was personal growth evident in many of them even in this short visit. It makes us very excited to see what they will achieve personally and as a group o ver the course of this years program.

Written by Nic
PS …. The shelter built by last years group is still standing !!!! The children were very excited to discover it tucked away in the bush today :). (See last years blog post titled ‘building a shelter’ if you would like to read about its construction )