Child's Play

July 07th, 2016
Child's Play
The Lobethal Community Kindergarten has taken learning off the screen, out of the classroom and into nature with their Nature Connect program, otherwise known as Bush Kindy.

Twice a week, the children at the Lobethal Community Kindergarten are dropped of at Bushland Park early in the morning. After a hearty breakfast of toast cooked over a campfire, the children are allowed to explore, leading their charges along the many winding paths throughout the park.

Director of the Lobethal Community Kindergarten Lee Munn believes strongly in teaching children to be resilient by taking them out of the classroom and in to nature.

"We know there has been a lot of research around nature play and childrens wellbeing," Lee said.

"We have a far greater level of well being in our children. Our attendance rate is almost 100 percent every time we are out in the Park and the children are just happier out in nature. With so many screens around these days its important that we counteract that screen time."

Bushland Park, which is a few kilometers away from the Lobethal Community Kindergarten, provides a great location for parents to drop off their children for a day of exploration and play outside the constraints of the classroom.

"For us Bushland Park was utopia," Lee said.

"It was an untapped resource in terms of it being a learning space, as well as giving the children an opportunity to learn about the heritage of Lobethal. When we were looking at spaces that seemed to be the natural fit."

Lee is a strong believer of a play-based curriculum. She wants the children to be able to explore the space in their own time in the hope of developing 21st century learners.

"We have found that nature is a great leveler," Lee said

"The environment provides a much greater opportunity for learning than what we can manufacture in the classroom. We are also getting lots of dads and grandparents who are loving coming along because they can share their own skills, their own knowledge and the stories of their own childhoods."

"For children who might be really good at doing puzzles or constructing things indoors, they go outside and they have to think differently. We are trying to develop curiosity and a sense of wonder – it's about cooperation, collaboration and communication."

Kris Klaer and his grandson Nate are big fans of the bush kindy program. Known affectionately to the children as ‘Bush Kindy Pa’, Kris is a regular grandparent-helper at the twice-weekly outings.

“It’s great watching the kids learn,” Kris said.

“I was born and bred in Lobethal, so I lived at Bushland Park as a kid. Our parents used to send us off after breakfast and tell us to be home before dinner time. It lets the kids be kids, it’s an excellent program.”

“It promotes their imagination and their need to express themselves. It’s amazing to see them return and remember where they were playing the previous week. They have special names for all the trees – the dead forest and the drumming tree are particular favourites.”

The Lobethal Community Kindergarten first got involved with Outdoor Kindy Week in 2012. The popularity of the event led the team to look into the benefits of outdoor learning spaces, and eventually resulted in the staff hosting a conference to around 200 educators on the topic.

"We decided to bite the bullet and aim to start pushing the boundaries in terms of what we could offer our families in terms of nature play," Lee said.

"We always consult really strongly with parents and with the children about what we want to do. When we consulted with parents about what they thought about the nature connect program they wanted far more outdoor time than we expected. We have had incredible support."

To find out more about the Lobethal Community Kindergarten and the Nature Connect program visit http://www.lobethalkgn.sa.edu.au

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