Over the past two years the Mairtown teaching team has worked hard to set up our successful Nature Programme. This is a programme that is of great interest to other educators who are devoted to providing children with nature based learning experiences. Because of this we decided to run a workshop for other teachers to have a hands-on experience of what is like for our children who are part of our Nature Programme.
A group of early childhood educators from all over the Whangarei area came to join us at Mair Park for this workshop. We wanted to give them an experience through the eyes of the child, taking them to places that the children visit on our Nature Programme. This journey began as it does for our children when we welcomed each other in a circle, reflected about how we began the programme and went over some of the ground rules.
Now it was time to enter Mair Park and as soon as we did this the reflective dialogue began. As we moved through the bush we soon came to the ‘Magic Tree’ where we stopped and reflected on how this space was making us feel. A similar reflection was evident amongst the group; a sense of calmness and peace. After this 'Rocky Mountain' was tackled; this was a great way to experience the physically challenging environment that the bush offers. It created some thoughtful reflections about how we as adults feel about these risk taking experiences and what they mean to the children’s learning and development.
Next we discussed the natural resources that the bush offers and how these are often used by our children to create ephemeral art (art that is made from things that are in the natural environment, which will only last for a short time - things that are transient, are temporary and will eventually disappear.) We gave our workshop participants some string and asked them to create some treasures for our bush. As they were involved in this experience there was a sense of engagement with the environment and lots of deep concentration. This is behaviour that is often displayed by our children on the Nature Programme. Here are some of the wonderful creations.
The following week our children found the treasures that were left behind. This created a great sense of wonder and magic as the children reflected on what they had discovered.
Part of the workshop was to also share worldwide research and information that support and verify the importance of getting children out and into nature and the opportunity to engage in reflective dialogue around this. We gathered together for a picnic where there was lots of thought provoking questions asked and discussion shared amongst the group. We were able to share in depth the reasons why we do what we do and the benefits that we have seen for our children since we started our Nature Programme.
We have received some wonderful feedback about the experience from the teachers who attended.
“It was great to be able to ask questions as they came up in the setting, and to hear the info about setting up and running the programme after having experienced the environment- much more relevant. It was wonderful to have all four of you there sharing your different perspectives – made it a very rich experience.”
“Keep up the great work. You are making a difference to each child’s life and how they look at and accept the world.”
We are incredibly passionate about the Nature Programme and felt honoured that we could share this with other educators. It was great for our own profession learning and development. Networking with other educators with similar desires is always empowering and reaffirming for us. At Mairtown Kindergarten we believe that by providing children with a regular experience of being in nature we are enhancing their learning and development in many ways, with one of the most significant motives being that they will develop skills and a lifelong love and interest in caring for their local environment.
"There’s no way that we can help children to learn to love nature and preserve this planet, if we don’t give them direct experiences with the miracles and blessings of nature." (Anita Olds)
We will be running some more workshops in 2013 so if you are interested don’t hesitate to contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org or 094372742.