Reflections on exploring the Kedron Brook.
As you may be aware over the past decade there has been a growing international interest in exploring the outdoor environment with children, as a way of developing skills and increasing motivation for learning.
Since 2010 my Kindy groups have been visiting Kedron Brook creek every fortnight, a short 5 minute walk from the service. Over the past few years Bush Knowing has also introduced and encouraged many children and families to form a connection to it – whether they live beside it, have visited it in the past or explore it more now due to our regular interactions.
Each year with a different cohort of children considerations and informed decisions are made to ensure that our interactions and connections with the creek continue in a safe though balanced way -with every child’s need to be challenged and take risks in their learning journey.
To support my learning journey l became a Forest School Leader in 2016 and through this l believe my role in these experiences has changed. Supported by this training and over time taking children into nature l have gained many and varied skills to safely and enthusiastically introduce children and their families to this benefit risk experience.
I have a renewed confidence in my abilities to facilitate transformative leadership – to connect, inspire and empower all participants to create a shared vision for our interactions with the creek environment (Brown and Prosner,2001 cited in Elliot, 2014, p50).
Making it happen involves sharing of information with all stake holders – children, parents and the local council; community groups; benefit risk assessments; site assessments- looking at the ground level, mid and upper canopy; insurance documentation; compiling learning resources such as reference books and magnifying glasses; an emergency first aid kit; permission paperwork; clear expectations of the participants role in this experience; ensuring avenues of feedback and documenting the learning that occurs.
From our interactions and connections with the creek l have been able to teach and we have learnt to recognise and be aware of the changes in seasons. We have observed where there have been flooding rains that make it too dangerous to enter the water due to the volume or foreign items in it that have washed down stream, or drought – where the lack of water exposes so many other unnatural items.
We know how to negotiate areas where trees have fallen where we had previously been playing, noticed the effects of soil erosion, pollution and sadly vandalism.
On each visit we pick up rubbish – adding what we can to the recycle bin. We have repositioned native plants and recognised weeds. We have viewed tiny insects, bird life and reptiles with our magnifying glasses, torches and binoculars.
We know how to ‘drop and plop’ stones safely in front of our bodies and take the opportunity to sit, listen and appreciate natures sounds. Importantly the children and families are more aware of how to interact in nature without damaging it and in small ways do what we can to protect it.
Over time we have learnt balance, agility and that you can sometimes fall and slip – that it’s ok and to get back up -not worrying about getting wet or dirty. Importantly we understand and have observed that children need to take risks – it’s how we as educators and parents monitor and view these – with all children gaining a self awareness of their growing skills and abilities.
I always wonder and hope that each child and family will carry with them wonderful memories, positive attitudes and a relationship or ecocentric view of the natural world (Elliot,2014,p.15).
Elliot,S.(2014).Sustainability and the Early Years Learning framework. Mt. Victoria, NSW:Pademelon Press.pp.15,50.