Western Australia’s 1st full-time onsite Nature Kindergarten
“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.”
To the best of my knowledge this is the first full-time, onsite ‘Nature Kindergarten’ here in Western Australia (possibly Australia).
Our new pioneering Nature Kindergarten was part of a massive redevelopment project that saw 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 that prevents children from having the privilege of experiencing so much of what Australia truly has to offer.
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.
Numerous long-term Forest Schools programmes have demonstrated the positive impacts on children’s resilience, confidence and wellbeing.
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’’, with Planet Ark research showing only one in 10 children spend more time playing outdoors than indoors".