Thursday, 3 May 2012

Nature and the classroom

Nature and the classroom. The two are not necessarily separate places. I believe that you can commence a programme introducing children to nature before you leave the indoor classroom.

In my work I come across a lot of people who believe that naturalistic play and environments are created by simply adding a few natural elements to an existing outdoor KFC environment - the outdoor equivalent of adding wood effect wall paper. Beyond the highly contentious issues of, "Rocks, plants, woodchips, bees, trees....are dangerous, dirty and expensive", they believe that adding (and then generally ignoring) a bit of green matter to their playgrounds fulfils the current requirement for EYLF, i.e. "Outdoor learning spaces are a feature of Australian learning environments. They offer a vast array of possibilities not available indoors. Playspaces in natural environments include plants, trees, edible gardens, sand, rocks, mud, water and other elements from nature. These spaces invite open-ended interactions, spontaneity, risk-taking, exploration, discovery and connection with nature. They foster an appreciation of the natural environment, develop environmental awareness and provide a platform for ongoing environmental education" and the NQF and new National Standards.

Every centre is different. Some are in areas that are climatically inhospitable (e.g. it rains, is cold, is hot), some are situated in built-up metropolitan areas, others simply lack knowledge, consideration and ultimately a philosophy, in respect to introducing these natural concepts and experiences. NO BLAME is attached to the last statement. The current ideology being touted is that this current generation is the first to be affected by alienation to nature, when in truth the process began, depending on when and where you grew up, generations ago. Therefore it is a tad difficult to understand, teach or be enthusiastic about something you've never really fully experienced.  

Some really good examples of centres and services who have attempted to address their situations and introduced nature concepts are listed below. I find their efforts, energy and problem solving inspirational in our otherwise "you do it for me" world. In no particular order they are -

Learning for Life (aka. No such thing as bad weather)
The Nature Teacher
Tiny Treks - Unplug with the Outdoors
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