“Tell me and I’ll forget, show me and I may remember, involve me and I’ll understand” Chinese Proverb
You only have to look around our Kindergarten to notice the value that we put on exposure to nature. It permeates throughout both our inside and outside area and is an integral part of all that we are here. The Bush Kindergarten experience is involving our children in another aspect of being in nature.
Environmental Stewardship – For us one of the main reasons behind doing this is the cultivation of the future, a sense of environmental stewardship and caring for the environment. Our hope is that these children will continue to care and value nature throughout their lives. The research shows that the adults that have a strong connection to nature usually had experiences in nature as a child – often periods of self-directed play where they were able to spend long periods of time just ‘being’ in nature. These experiences had life-long impact in creating a connection, empathy and value of nature.
Planting and Care for Plants – We love every opportunity to plant trees in our special Spa Park glade. As we return to this area regularly, we have the ongoing opportunity to explore, learn, discover and take an ongoing responsibility to care for these plants. We hope our children will continue to return to these trees as they grow older and even experience that feeling of legacy for their future generations.
Well-Being and Trust – One aspect of the programme that we are particularly involved with is this idea of developing an understanding of what it involves to keep ourselves safe in new environments. We are focused on creating an atmosphere of looking after and trusting. Trust of each other is a very important aspect of this experience. There is trust between children and adults, as well as adults and adults, both parents and teachers. Alongside this is the opportunity for children to develop their own knowledge about keeping themselves safe and also a sense of responsibility for their own well-being as well as the well-being of others.
Confidence – Alongside this idea of well-being is also the idea that comes through in much of the writings about Bush Kindergarten experiences – confidence. This opportunity encourages independence, creativity and self-directed play in an environment that enables some risk-taking and opportunities to develop perseverance. The physical play and discovery that occurs is so important for the young child. They develop confidence in this world and in their ability to find their way around it.
Wonder – It is very important that children have the time and space for the wonder of discovery. This sense of wonder offered by being in nature leads to our children wanting to investigate, learn and to explore – these are the skills of becoming lifelong learners. It is wonder that allows us to want to explore and discover more. Richard Louv (2005) suggests that early nature experiences are essential if we are to produce future thinkers and change agents.
Walking – The teaching team participated in Professional Development with Helle Heckman many years ago now, and one of the aspects that struck a chord in us was her emphasis on the value of walking. She said the value of walking with your children cannot be underestimated. The movement of walking involves that cross-movement of the body. This movement builds ‘bridges’ in the brain which are built in the first five years. She says this is ‘walking as pilgrimage’ – walking at a slow pace – allowing the child to be. We wanted to incorporate some of this idea into our Bush Kindergarten activities.
Reciprocal relationships – having our Bush Kindy at Spa Park allows us to be part of a learning community as we share our experiences, on a practical level, with the other learners involved in the Kids Greening Taupo programme.
Kia puāwai koe kit e ao, ka kitea ō painga
So you shall blossom into the world, and the world in turn is transformed.
Children’s learning is embedded in their reciprocal relationships with the world, with people, places, and things. The world shapes their learning, and in turn, their learning shapes and changes the world.
Kei Tua o te Pae, Assessment for Learning – Book 1
This is a wonderful journey for tamariki and kaiako, and we feel excited and proud to be creating this experience for our community.