Since I have started with Karana early education centre this year, I have been on two outings “over the fence” (as it has become affectionately known by the children) and have observed how children love these and how learning occurs naturally. From simply observing fauna and flora around them, learning about nature by experiencing it in different seasons, observing the colours of the grass and trees, to more advanced life skills like how to navigate their way through somewhat unfamiliar area at the beginning and exploring their community. They also learn how different clothing is required for different environments, what is safe under one environment may not be adequate in a different setting. This further encourages flexibility in thinking.
These walks are really enjoyable in autumn and winter as children get to soak in the warm sun just by being out in the open. Though educators are always present, however, children do take the lead in these experiences choosing where they stay longer, what areas interest them and so on, leading to a sense of ownership in their beings and play. These outings also allow an opportunity for children to assess the risk themselves and educators to stand back and observe. On our last outing, children chose to walk on the rocks and go under the bush, which was an uneven terrain compare to the regular terrain they walk at the centre. So, they learn to tap the differences within the geography of their environment.
The other thing, which I felt amongst children, was the sense of freedom as soon as they were “over the fence”. Though it is heavily encouraged within the centre as well by allowing them to move freely and choose the room of their liking for most of the day, however this is experienced totally differently outside. Boundaries are negotiated on the spot with children at the centre stage.
Children and educators also become co-creators of their knowledge and learning outside, as sometimes educators’ see/explore the new things for the first time in the environment, as has been my experience in the past outing.
Children love to learn, especially from young ages. It’s important to take the time with your children to teach them lots of different worldly things which of course includes nature, animals and all things earth. Ensuring they are aware of the beauties of nature from a young age allows them to be more in tune with the environment and healthy living lifestyles as they mature and grow up. At Eskay Kids Capalaba we impress upon our children the importance of being kind to nature and practicing environmentally friendly routines. Not to mention, we are mud play enthusiasts, because getting amongst the earth is the best way to form a healthy relationship with it.
Getting out into nature is perhaps the easiest way to encourage outside play and the more outside play, the more they learn about the outside world. So, get outside with your kids and show them around. Teach them all you know about trees, flowers, animals, insects and the world as we know it. If you assist you join your children outside and play with them it can really assist them in getting comfortable with the great outdoors and therefore wanting to learn more.
Another great way to educate your children about nature is by reading books about nature, the environment, animals etc. Children love to read and they especially love educational stories. While fun, happy and funny books are also important, mixing it up with some environmental books is always good too.
Sometimes some healthy quizzing can be really helpful for children to retain information. For example, “what kind of bird is that”, “what’s the name of that tree”, “is that a pigeon or a cockatoo?” Simple questions about animals and nature can really assist in their overall level of general knowledge which is extremely important.
Getting the foundations of general knowledge can really start with simple nature facts. Learning about animals and the earth we live on is such an important thing for children to be made aware of. Technology and the internet is all very important, but outside play should always come first.
This is my first blog. I was very nervous writing this up as I’m not much of a writer, and I know how many people could potentially read this. However, I just had to share my wonderful experience in nature at our wonderful Mayfield that we are so very lucky to have.
The amazing owners of Eskay Kids paid for me to do Claire Warden’s Nature Pedagogy course, with Carly Garner.
So far I have only done the first 3 days, there are another 3 to come, and I am so excited for the next round. Before I had started, I was so nervous. Yes I love getting dirty and playing in mud and exploring, however I’m rather scared (to say the least) of spiders, snakes and fire etc., so I usually tend to avoid nature in its truest and beautiful form.
But in nature time, I almost forgot about my fears and it hardly felt like learning at all. After all, I got to play in the wild and I took the time to notice the wonderful things in the bushland that in my busy everyday life, I would never see, or I’d be afraid to explore.
I foraged so many wonderful plants and flowers of all different shapes and colours, I learnt about what different plants meant regarding the condition of the land. I looked at rocks and feathers for all their beauty, the different patterns in each feather and shapes, tones and lines in the rocks… I really felt like a child. I was excited to reach the river, and I just had to touch the water. It was so cold, but I felt like a child, without a care in the world.
After our nature walk we came back and made light cubbies out of natural resources we had foraged from our walk. Flowers, sticks, feathers, grass for weaving etc., it was so much fun. It held a candle, which lit our path on our night walk. The light cubby looked even more amazing at night! We followed the walk with a huge bonfire. It was very relaxing sitting by the fire on a cold dark night, just watching the embers drift off into the sky and then disappear, they looked like silent fireworks.
The next day we got to explore fire ourselves, but first we discussed the benefits and risks of children exploring fire… and of course the benefits outweighed the risks. Then for the fun part! We used vaseline and cotton balls, along with flint and steel, dry leaves, sticks and bark etc., in a colander to have a go at making a fire. This was my first ever fire as I usually stay away. I was so proud of myself – I actually did it! I made a spark with my flint without getting scared and then bam, my fire had begun. I looked after it by slowly feeding it different dry leaves and sticks until it was big enough to stay alight on its own. It was such an accomplishment for me! Then we tried using the flints without the vaseline and using hay and other natural fire starters. I again got mine to start using some shredded rope, and slowly feeding it oxygen by blowing it, however admittedly my fear did get the better of me and I wasn’t able to do it in my cupped hands, I still had loads of fun! We then made charcoal pencils, which were surprisingly easy. We made and ate damper, melted chocolate for our strawberries and marshmallows!!
Throughout the time of the course we also learnt to whittle sticks, making pencil shaped sticks, which could potentially be a weapon in the bush if needed, however we made homemade ink using flowers, water and a mortar and pestle. We also made crochet needles, from a stick with a whittling knife.
We explored with the very delicate felt, making felt art and balls from scratch. We also had a go at using the same process with wool from sheep and horse hair. The horsehair didn’t go as well, it was too fine.
It was sad to say goodbye to Carly, but knowing we will be back in November is truly amazing, and of course, we have the access to Mayfield … I’ll definitely be begging to come out with the children next time!
The very next day after the nature pedagogy course, I was so in love with nature, and so inspired, that I took my own children out to some local bush land along with my husband. It was quite funny as I was so excited to explore and so were the children. I had to keep reminding my husband to stand back and trust them to explore without boundaries. We crossed a fallen tree that made a bridge over a creek. Facing another fear of mine – heights, but this time with the kids watching I couldn’t show my fear as I might pass my fear on. They did so well crossing the tree, I was so proud of all of us.
I totally understand nature time now, though as we were there a couple hours, it only felt like such a short time. The kids and myself are so very excited to get back out there and see what else we can explore, and I can’t wait to show them all the things I learnt, as well as bringing it into Eskay Kids Springfield for my children there to explore, as I know they will love it. I also want to extend it into our walks in the beyond.
Nature is such a wonderful thing that we are so lucky to be surrounded by. We just need to remember to slow down and enjoy what is right in front of us.