Last Friday (30th January) I facilitated the first of our Nature Programme excursions into Mair Park for 2015. Our nature program is now into it's fourth year and its continued success 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 it is a new year, this meant that Sarah and I were also welcoming in five new tamariki to the programme. This is an exciting time for most of our children; being part of the ‘Nature Programme explorers’ is a highly anticipated happening in our children’s kindergarten experience.
As the focus of our Nature Programme is to be child-led, we empower our ‘leaders’ (children who already have experience and knowledge) to be the informed decision makers on each of our Friday’s in the bush. This often means that our new tamariki are very quickly initiated into some of the existing groups favourite places. At present a top spot to play with abandon is Punga Hill or more affectionately named the Mud Slide for ‘bum sliding’.
“The first time I went bum sliding I was like what the? And then I tried and I went whee! And then I had a hundred turns” – Sharlotte
Whilst we have frequented Punga Hill for the past three years of our programme, it’s potential as an inspirational learning environment, that pushes the children’s physical limits, truly unfolded last year after a period of on-going heavy rain.
Punga Hill’s rolling slope transformed into a slick, slippery, sticky wet surface full of challenge and fun!
However in the height of summer, the bush’s natural state is to be mostly dry in the undergrowth. When the children requested we cross the bridge and head to Punga Hill for ‘bum sliding’, I was quietly hesitant about the disappointment they were about to withstand. However after a quick trial (and a bit of problem solving), it was quickly established that ‘water’ needed to be added to the mud slide and that Wyatt’s mum and aunty (our manuhiri for the day) would be designated to the role of ‘water carriers’ (and attain the identity as being ‘the most fun mum’s!).
Children are competent, confident and capable learners, able to make choices and decisions
Successful mud sliding down Punga Hill requires a combination of physical strength, co-ordination and an attitude of fearlessness (or the confidence to overcome that feeling of a knot in your belly). We believe that children need to see or engage in play that encourages exploration, taking risks, adventure and that this empowers them to push their personal limits in a safe environment. This ability to meet challenges is perfectly captured in Reese’s reflection of her first time ‘bum sliding’
“I feeled a bit scared and then I thought it was quite fun……it was so, so fun! I loved the bit when I was super muddy!”
When they have the opportunities to explore risk and try and try again in an environment that is both safe and challenging, young children can engage in motor practice play that leads to advanced physical abilities, mobility, agility, dexterity, and as a result, confidence, independence and learning – Kernan, 2007
|"I had lots of mud everywhere, it was cool" - Hezekiah|
Of course, bum sliding is not just beneficial for children, participating alongside our children builds powerful childhood memories. One of characteristics of our Nature Programme that I just love is the generous support and willingness of our parent helpers to be so engaged and involved in the children’s learning experiences.
Research indicates that they way adults interact with children plays a very important role in children’s learning and development. When adults are responsive, guiding, and nurturing, children take more initiative and are more likely to be actively involved and persistent in their work – Highscope, 2015
We don’t stop playing because we are old; we grow old because we stop playing – George Bernard Shaw
“It was so fun when I sat on my mum! I liked the bit when I jumped over the bumps, it’s fun and then sore when you land!” - Wyatt
“When my mummy went bum sliding her bum was so muddy it was like muddy as!
It’s good when mummy goes bum sliding, she learns that it’s fun and real muddy” – Sharlotte
“When my dad comes on the Nature Programme I’m gonna take him on the mud slide, he’ll go so far like Tyler’s dad and so fast! I’m gonna sit on him” - Hezekiah
Have a really great weekend everyone. Take a risk and try something new that makes you feel both excited and a little bit scared at the same time – the learning from these precious opportunities is great!
Until next time