Last Friday we began our ‘Nature Programme’ for term 2. This is where we take our 10 eldest children into the bush for nature education once a week.
Friday was an exciting day; we welcomed 4 new children onto the programme as well farewelling Helena as she celebrated her 5th birthday.
One of the wonderful aspects of this programme is the fact that we encourage and provide opportunities for children to make their own decisions about the morning; which areas of Mair Park to visit, how long to spend in any area, where to next? A great way for developing negotiation and team working skills.
Being outdoors regardless of the weather – sun, cold, rain (and we did have some heavy rain!) – provides so many learning opportunities for children. For instance the physical benefits help keep children fit and healthy as well as building strong muscles and assisting with developing balance and coordination.
Cognitive and social/emotional abilities are also developed. When children play outside, without the use of structured toys, they are far more likely to invent their own games. And as they do so they are expressing themselves, thereby enhancing their communication and vocabulary. They also learn about the world in their own way, make decisions, use their organisational skills and invent rules – they are the ones in control.
Children find their own objects in play
Leah felt this root system looked like 'crinkled up fingers'
Children to learn to appreciate the outdoors, and their local community spaces.
Enhancing aesthetic awareness is another, less obvious, skill that is encouraged:
“Aesthetic awareness refers to a heightened sensitivity to the beauty around us. Because the natural world is filled with beautiful sights, sounds, and textures, it's the perfect resource for the development of aesthetics in young children” (Rae, 2008).
There were so many beautiful treasures to be found in the bush on Friday. There was an abundance of fungi – no doubt because of all our recent rain. Many of these were incredible, and so stunning; the one in this photo was new to all of us and looked like small crystals twinkling on a branch.
Children have amazing imaginations and a great sense of curiosity. We have noticed that they are able to find ways to connect with nature on their own, without to much assistance from their teachers – they explore worms, dirt and leaves, sticks, rocks and bugs. The endless wondrous classroom that is the outdoors.
Here is a little video clip from the morning.
A very big thank you to Moana - our parent helper on Friday - support from our whānau is invaluable to us and is what keeps this programme running and so successful.