I don’t know about you, but being outdoors for me brings a sense of peace, a stillness in my busy mind. I have learned to take in my surroundings, notice what I notice, to marvel at nature’s offerings, and feel papatūānuku and her energy radiating up my body. I take a deep breath in .. and a slow breath out. Noticing the sounds that surround me and the scents that envelope me, always in awe of the beauty before me.
This has not always been how I have viewed nature. My connection with nature has evolved over the past 10 years and continues to strengthen each day. I knew being outside had benefits, but underestimated just how much nature would positively impact my emotional wellbeing and deepen not only my connection with tamariki, but their connection with me and papatūānuku.
My connection with nature inspired me to start researching into nature based play, the more I found, the more I shared with Lou and the team, and the more we all learned about the rich authentic learning that can come from time spent in nature. As a team we made plans to start introducing the outdoors into our programmes. We started with a few walks in nature, venues were discussed and visited for suitability, the planning stages were underway, risk assessments completed, parents permission gained and off we went, the start of what we called Forest Education, soon to be shortened to Forest Ed.
We would arrive at our destination, and head on our walk. Adults talking, tamariki talking, we would stop for morning kai, have a wee play and head back along the walking paths eventually reaching the cars. We would exchange goodbyes and all head home. A nice morning in nature done, ….. right? Our youngest would sometimes get out of the pram and sometimes not, each fortnight was a new venue a new space to explore. Every now and then we would see a duck or a spiders web glistening in the morning sun and comment ‘oh look, a spiders web’, or “oh a raki raki” with minimal engagement from the tamariki. Our walk would continue to our destination ‘a spot for kai’.
Conversations started emerging from the tamariki, “Is it your Forest Ed day today Mel?” The children were more excited about Mel’s Forest Ed day as she re-visited the same venue. In our early talks, we the team, discussed the importance of ngā tamariki having a connection with papatūānuku, we overlooked the power of feeling connected to a particular space. Repetition makes connections stronger, so it made sense to make the change and visit the same nature space each fortnight.
A morning in nature for us, is no longer measured by how far we walk but by what we see, hear, smell, feel and discover. Tamariki of all ages are splashing in puddles, digging in dirt, slipping and sliding in mud, walking and crawling on wet grass and dry grass. Rich conversations are emerging, “why is that leaf brown?”, new learnings are discovered, such as finding out pine nuts come from pine cones. Feelings of disappointment expressed “oh, no puddles today :(“. Watching the seasons change one visit at a time. We never tire of witnessing the sheer joy flash across the face of tamariki who have persevered and experienced success, raising their overall confidence while developing a love for the outdoors.
Outdoor learning is a given in our programme now and through some trial and error, have figured out how to layer up for our mornings in a variety of conditions here in Ōtautahi, for the tamariki and for ourselves.
Now, perhaps more than ever, we must find ways to immerse ourselves and our tamariki in natural environments. We are learning more about nature each day and the impact it has on our physical and mental health. We are in the unique position, as kaiako and parents to build awareness and life-long nature lovers by offering experiences for tamariki to be at one with nature, to be fully immersed in the elements, with trusted adults, whānau and friends.. to PLAY the way we once did.
Contact Organic Eduction to find out more about incorporating Nature Play into your programme, whether it be at your home or in your educational setting. They can tailor make group or individual workshops to fit your needs.