“Passion is lifted from the earth itself by the
muddy hands of the young; it travels along
grass stained sleeves to the heart. If we are going
to save environmentalism and the environment,
we must also save an endangered
indicator species: the child in nature.”
Dear Families & Friends of Little Learners,
It gives me great pleasure to announce that Little Learners Early Development & Education Centre will soon be launching a second onsite Kindergarten.
To the best of my knowledge it will be the first full-time, onsite ‘Nature Kindergarten’ here in Western Australia (possibly Australia).
The new pioneering Nature Kindergarten is part of a massive redevelopment project that will see the conversion of an existing underutilised playground into an exciting, engaging and inspiring natural area.
Nature Kindergartens are known globally by many different names such as Forest Schools, Bush Kindergartens, Outdoor Schools, Waldkindergarten, Rain or Shine Schools but the philosophy remains the same.
The outdoor preschool approach was originally established over 50 years ago in Scandinavia and is known by many different names. Outdoor education has become an international movement with preschools emerging in the United Kingdom, Canada, Japan, Australia and New Zealand over the last decade.
“Australia is a nation defined by its outdoor environments … however, research reveals that one in ten Australian children play outside once a week or less. The landscape of childhood has changed. In a single generation, we have seen a profound shift from outdoor play to indoor play”. (Climbing Trees: Getting Aussie Kids Back Outside – Planet Ark 2011)
Many older adults in Australia have memories of being free to roam, to explore the creeks, the beach and the bush. Such memories, together with the well-researched negative consequences to children of not having contact with nature, have led to a growing movement among concerned educators, academics and parents to address this imbalance. Numerous ongoing researchers from a wide variety of independent organisations have demonstrated the significant benefits of children spending long extended periods of time outdoors in nature. For example, children have better brain development, better bone and muscular development, better social and cognitive development, better emotional wellbeing and less illness.
Promoting children’s wellbeing, confidence and resilience should be the cornerstone of every educational policy, if we are to empower our children to achieve the best developmental outcomes.
Nature Kindergartens are child centered and are deliberately designed to promote the holistic development of the child.
What the research says:
“In relation to children’s wellbeing, long-term Forest School programmes were found to have positive impacts on both children’s physical and mental health. The studies found that as well as promoting wellbeing in children, the programmes enhance their confidence and resilience, persistence and problem-solving skills.
Children’s confidence increased and they had heightened levels of self-belief, positive attitude, independence and demonstrated an increased ability to take initiatives. Children who play regularly in natural settings are sick less often. Mud, sand, water, leaves, sticks, pine cones and gum nuts can help to stimulate children’s immune system as well as their imagination. Children who spend more time outside tend to be more physically active and are less likely to be overweight. They are more resistant to stress; have lower incidence of behavioural disorders, anxiety and depression; and have a higher measure of self-worth.
Children who play in natural settings play in more diverse, imaginative and creative ways and show improved language and collaboration skills They also have more positive feelings about each other. Bullying behaviour is greatly reduced where children have access to diverse nature-based play environments. Symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder are often reduced after contact with nature”.
“The ‘Learning from Trees: Life Lessons for Future Generations’ report released ahead of National Tree Day (July 30, 2017), asked 200 Australian teachers to identify the crucial skills students will need most to tackle global challenges, such as climate change in the future.
In order of importance teachers ranked STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics); problem solving and critical thinking; creativity and innovation; compassion; ‘grit’ (determination, resilience, perseverance); emotional intelligence and trade skills.
Research cited in the report shows how children can develop these key skills by learning outdoors, both during and outside of school hours.
Dr Lloyd, director of Outdoor Connections, said providing opportunities for outdoor learning is a critical priority for parents, teachers and the wider community.
But this is a significant challenge ‘’because children have lost touch with nature in a way that has never been experienced before’’.
Our Nature Kindergarten program will focus on the Reggio Emilia inspired approach to early learning, which has become the benchmark for excellence in guiding young children.
At the core of our program is a Child-First ‘emergent curriculum’. An emergent Curriculum can be defined as a way of supporting learning that is based on the children’s interests. Learning occurs naturally, children thrive and learn best when their interests are considered and captured. A truly emergent curriculum happens when we believe that children who wander, wonder and play are also learning. It happens when children’s interests and passions are respected and nurtured. It happens when educators shift their agenda away from imparting knowledge that we consider worthy, to showing children that we value their curiosity, problem solving, questions, and theories. It happens when we ask open ended questions instead of downloading information.
The Educators will act as mentors for the children as they guide them through the adventure of learning outdoors in academic subjects such as arts, music, writing and reading, natural science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).
The significant importance of learning through play while outdoors in a natural environment cannot be underestimated.
Our Nature Kindergarten program offers a range of inclusive, engaging, interactive and fun learning experiences that develop self-esteem, resilience, reflection, imagination, resilience, curiosity and the motivation to become a lifelong learner. This is done while promoting the principles of global sustainability, recognising the uniqueness of the individual & the value of our rich multicultural heritage & diversity.
The children will be predominately spending their time outdoors all year round. They will be brought inside during extreme weather conditions (please refer to the Extreme weather policy in the Nature Kindergarten Parent Handbook).
The children will not be forced to stay outdoors, at ALL times they will have a voice and a choice.
While outside, the children will frequently have the opportunity to initiate their own learning experiences and activities, with appropriate materials for them to use as they wish.
The outdoor emergent curriculum will evolve and change with the children’s changing needs and interests. So that they can experience nature in as many ways as possible. Each Nature Kindergarten day will start and end at the ‘learning circle’ where the children will decide what they would like to do at the beginning of the day and share what they have done at the end of the day.
Our Nature Kindergarten program will also incorporate many important life skills for the children while they learn through play. Over time we will gradually introduce life skills such as: how to cross a river creek bed, walk along logs, climb & jump off trees & stumps, whittle, interact with fire, use hand tools and navigate uneven terrain.
The children will be able to do their own risk/benefit analysis before deciding to do anything outdoors. This is an incredibly important life skill that they need to be allowed to learn and implement themselves.
Just as importantly the children will be able to explore, experience, learn and engage at their own pace and set their own rhythm. They will not be constantly interrupted during this process as can happen at other routine centric focused Childcare Centres and Kindergartens.
The children will also be allowed to self-regulate when and where they eat, drink and sleep.
All of this will occur under the guidance of our highly skilled and trained professionals. Our Educators will be applying their professional judgement, common sense, training and instincts in regard to monitoring the children across all weather conditions and any activities that they engage in. At all times, the Educators will ensure that the children’s safety, health and well-being (both emotional and physical) are maintained.
18th September – 6th October: 3-week trial
We will be doing a soft opening for three weeks. So please let us know if you would be interested in having your child participate in this.
Saturday 23rd September – Parent open day
Time: 10:00am – 1:00pm
Address: 242 South Street, White Gum Valley 6162
We will be hosting a parent open day, so please come along and have a look around.
Saturday 7th October – Public open day
Time: 10:00am – 1:00pm
Address: 242 South Street, White Gum Valley 6162
We will be hosting a public open day, so if you have any interested friends, colleagues or family members that would be interested in enrolling their child please let them know.
Monday 9th October – Grand opening
We will be officially open our Nature Kindergarten program at 8:30am.
On a personal note, I am so excited to be launching this pioneering project here in Western Australia, it speaks to absolutely everything I so passionately believe in when it comes to promoting the wellbeing of children.
+61 8 9335 6941