Nature Explorers is a nature based sustainability educational program that operates under Pottsville Community Preschool, a non-profit community based organisation.
Nature Explorers develops Nature School Educational programs for children from birth to 12 years of age, as well as families and the local community. The program is founded in nature pedagogy whereby children learn with and in nature.
The curriculum is child led and directed whereby children are engaged in experiences based on their interests, strengths and emerging skills. The routine is relaxed and allows for unhurried and uninterrupted play, where children play and progress at their own pace. The program provides play based learning that supports holistic development and aligns with the Early Years Learning Framework. Children are encouraged to explore and discover the natural world and engage in opportunities that are open-ended, diverse and meaningful and provide challenge.
The natural elements in the outdoors offers challenges for children and supports problem solving, decision making and allows children to experience and learn how to manage risk, at levels they are comfortable with.
Our educational programs aim to reconnect children with their local community environment, supporting the development of knowledge and skills surrounding the importance of community and sustainability. Children build their knowledge and participate in practical hands on experiences through participation at a range of local sites, including dune areas, bushland and the Environmental Park. We aim to foster Environmental stewards within the children, developing a sense of passion to take care of our unique beautiful community and all that lives there. The children learn how to protect the natural environment through conservation and sustainable practices, this will in turn help build and strengthen our communities.
What does a session look like and what learning takes place?
Nature Explorers program is different everyday and that is because it is a child led curriculum. Educators are responsive to children’s interests and extend children’s learning further. Each day may include opportunities such as;
Children feel empowered and a strong sense of confidence as they lead the way as Nature Guides each day, they choose the direction and site, set up shelter, a base area and set up safety ropes for our boundary. They communicate and work as a team, making decisions and it builds their self-esteem and independence.
Children engage in physical play and movement – walking to site, running across the dunes, balancing on logs, digging holes in the sand, constructing and building cubbies and shelters. Each activity involves skill development and learning. For example; Tree climbing – children choose an appropriate tree – this is through questioning and guidance by educators or other children sharing their prior knowledge form previous sessions. They test the branches, check for safety and consider a way to climb. They learn to assess risk safely and engage in problem solving as they weigh up the risk of putting their weight on each limb of the tree and work out which branch is next in their reach. They build muscles and co-ordination and a sense of pride in their achievements.
Children draw on nature to be creative every day, whether that is making 3d sculptures from sticks, leaves, bark and flowers, or creating drawings in the sand or mud. They often use our clipboards to plan designs or document their creations, maps or signs. They engage in early literacy experiences as they do with numeracy as they measure the height of trees, the length of logs, or count the berries they collect.
Educators support children to develop safe practice as they engage in bushcraft - using tools to cut, saw, chop, whittle, or carve in natural logs. They practice a range of knot tying and use these skills to construct swings, ladders, and shelters.
The children develop a sense of respect and care for their natural world. They express wonder and interest in discovering a trail of ants, a shiny bug, a spider egg sac, a cocoon or an ibis or bush turkey that may wander onto site, and the water dragon is a popular visitor. They are curious which leads them to engage in discussion with others about their discoveries, they inquire and look at resource books to increase their knowledge of our local flora and fauna. They develop and awareness of the impact of human activity on environment and the interdependence of living things.
Sustainable practices are part of everyday at Nature Explorers, as is the connections to community. Children feel a great sense of pride looking after their home town when they collect rubbish as part of our partnership with Clean Up Australia, they weed on our bush site in partnership with Tweed Land Care and plant new native local plants supplied by Burringbar Rainforest nursery. The contributions to land and community are immensely valuable to us all.
And then there are stories and song, music, games, imagination, the list goes on…its endless…
Every day children at Nature Explorers develop life skills and a love and respect for the natural world.
Explorers sense of wonder and curiosity leads them to investigations and explorations in their natural world, a place where they learn to care and appreciate their environment.
Explorers create imaginary play spcaes using natural materials. They use diverse fine motor skills, tying knots, as well as thinking skills as they plan and construct structures collaboratively as a team.