In June this year, we will celebrate three full years of facilitating nature-based discovery and learning through weekly excursions into Mairpark, on our Nature Programme.
The continued success of this programme is due to the on-going commitment of our teaching team, dedicated parents and the generous support of community funding organisations like COG's. COG's support our programme with a grant to cover our Education Coordinators role.
As teachers, one of our original visions when setting up this programme was to help our attending children and families to re-connect with their surrounding community.
We believe as a group that regular excursions in the natural world provide opportunity to create vibrant and powerful experiences and memories for (and with) our children.
In her book Nurture through Nature author and educator Clare Warden reminds us that the role of the teacher is integral to the success of outdoor education. Clare states “Young children need practitioners who value and enjoy the outdoors themselves, see the potential and consequences it has for children’s development, and want to be outside with them” (2007).
With Clare’s thoughts in mind, my focus for this week’s blog is acknowledging three years of commitment, attitude, understanding and positivity from the woman who make this amazing all-weather programme possible in our community – The Mairtown teaching team.
“Our work as teachers is to give children a sense of place – to invite children to braid their identities together with the place where they live” – Ann Pelo
In all our work, the construct of care or manaakitanga underpins our teams beliefs and values. This commitment to care and affection can also be evidenced through the mindful pedagogy undertaken by each of the team as they take turns to ‘lead’ the Nature Programme.
Whilst each of the teachers are unique in their teaching style, we are governed by a core set of principals which enable the on-going success of this programme, some of these include:
We view children as capable and competent learners and leaders
Natural spaces and materials stimulate children’s limitless imaginations
The support of our parents and whānau is integral to the success of our programme
Opportunities to experience risk enhance children's development
Nature provides opportunities for high play affordance
“Affordances are opportuniites that arise from the interaction between the physical properties of the environment and the interests, ideas and intent of the individual” (Warden, 2010)
Nature arouses curiosity and wonder
Nature time is unhurried
As teachers we are powerful influences in the lives of children
Recently during the process of self-review the team sat down to reflect on our work and leadership of the Nature Programme over the past year. Through our discussion we recognised that it is the familiarity and connectedness of ‘place’ that is such a powerful influence in the children’s learning on this programme. Master teacher Ann Pelo defines ‘a sense of place’ as “somewhere to be swept into an intimate embrace with the earth”, it is somewhere to connect and belong. Our hope is that the seeds of love for ‘place’ that we help to sow in our tamariki as young children, will help them to be part of a community who are anchored by a love of ‘place’ as adults; and who will take responsibility for its well-being in the future.
"We can truly care for nature and ourselves only if we see ourselves and nature as inseparable, only if we love ourselves as part of nature, only if we believe that our children have the right to be gifts to nature undestroyed" Richard Louv