As a staff team and a kindergarten site we are committed to continuing to provide our children with a rich, engaging, nature based learning environment. We have witnessed the powerful depth of learning and self development that is reached by children when they are allowed to play, free from the distractions of all the things we previously thought essential to keep them amused and busy.
Free to explore, to be challenged, to problem solve, to take risks, to experience blocks of uninterrupted play and to have a group of adults that are willing to monitor, provide resources and knowledge when required, play with them when invited, and yet also be prepared to hang back and let them ‘do it for themselves’.
We want to create an environment which encourages the taking of risks, and in which each and every child can find their place to belong, their place to be themselves, to challenge themselves, to build relationships with other children, adults and their environment.
From our experiences over the last term, one of the best ways to do this is to provide a rich, engaging outdoor learning environment. To model to our children the joy and excitement that being prepared to adapt to the ever changing conditions that nature allows us to experience.
I suspect this is more of a challenge to us as adults than the children. There are not too many children that spontaneously run for cover at the first drops of rain, or walk around the huge puddle that blocks their path, rather they rejoice and celebrate it. They take pleasure in the feel of it starting to soak into their hair, and relish the puddles of mud that are created just for their enjoyment. This childhood wonder and innocence is something we want to encourage and develop, rather than replace with adult expectations that are often so quickly imposed on children.
We don’t however want that instant gratification to then be followed by a group of cold, wet miserable children, unable and unwilling to fully participate in the programme. Its our job to prepare the children, the families and ourselves. To ensure we all dress in suitable clothing to keep us warm and dry while we jump in puddles and dance in the rain. To be sun safe and protected from the scorching heat during our hot summer months. To let the children have the freedom to get dirty, to take risks, to just be kids. To get stuck into the real work of childhood, PLAY!
As a site we provide many real life experiences which promote strong connections to nature and sustainability. We have several vegetable gardens which are planted and tended by the children. A sensory garden filled with plants choosen for their textures and aromas. A worm farm provides us with ‘worm juice’ to fertilise the garden, and a way of reusing some of our scraps. Our chooks and duck give us the opportunity to observe and care for living creatures, provide us with eggs, allow us to witness the wonders of new life from time to time, and are also a great way to dispose of our garden and fruit scraps. We get to enjoy the produce from our garden. We reuse and recycle where possible. We have a rainwater tank from which we can water our garden. We have a fantastic digging/mud patch, complete with many moveable rocks, stumps and natural materials, and we are about to embark on planting out the Claudwalk boardwalk with plants indigenous to this area. We are looking forward to being able hide in our living tunnel of sweet peas.
As appreciative as we are to have the outdoor environment that we do, we know we want more. We want to be able to provide links with the world and community outside our own fences. We access the park next door, but it is limited in its provision of natural resources and challenges.
We will examine our options of providing regular exposure to an authentic bush kindy experience on a regular basis, as an extension to our current programme. We will continue to under take professional development as a staff team to motivate us, challenge us and provides us with fresh perspectives and strategies to continue to provide a quality programme that is meeting the needs of our children and community. We will continue to share our successes and challenges in the hope that others are motivated to begin to provide similar experiences in their own environments.