Sunday, July 28, 2013

Nature Kindergartens

Following on from my post on Ken Robinson's korero (talk) a few days ago, a video broadcasted on the television programme Sunday looks at the NZ context of child-rearing (but most likely relevant to many other countries) and the issue of over-parenting. The video highlights a centre in Fiordland, South Island, New Zealand and their Forest School programme. The importance of risk, resiliency, the health benefits of being outside and leading healthy active lives. This video is an exciting move forward for New Zealand education, shedding light on the notion of "cotton-wool kids" and the importance of Nature Kindergartens in New Zealand.

Link to video: Raising Generation cotton wool kids

Play and Learn Early Education Centres have held the notion of  "learning beyond the walls" for nearly twenty years. Taking children on small excursions into the community - embracing the rich learning experiences that occur at the farm, the zoo, the beach, the bush and ensuring children feel a sense of belonging in their own community.

Play and Learn formally introduced "Nature Kindergartens" after sending two of their educators to the UK to be formally trained in the principles of the Forest School programme. In the first term, of being introduced there were incredible and significant benefits almost immediately. Some of these include:

* Increased fitness in children
* Less likely to be absent from school due to illness (common knowledge that germs and cold are better spread outdoors than from person to person indoors).
* Children who sometimes showed signs of shyness at the early childhood centre taking on leadership roles in Nature Kindergarten.
* Increased opportunities for conversations and oral language (we know that oral langauge is the foundation to all literacy).

Among these are many, many more examples of the benefits. So now I ponder the thought of Nature Kindergartens, and the possibility of introducing this concept to my children I am teaching at TKS? Any ideas?

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