Childhood, Environments, Forest School, Nature Kindergarten, Nature Play, Outdoors, Pedagogy

We found a Children’s Garden!!

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What an exciting day we had in Sydney today! Two very productive meetings as well as a site visit to a pre-school that has long been on our list of ‘must see’. We felt very privileged to meet up with the lovely Jennifer Kable of Progressive Early Childhood Education who shared Kinma Pre-school – and lunch-  with us.

When we walked in we immediately felt comfortable, some of the children gave us a passing glance and then continued with their self chosen activities, it was an environment of calm and purposeful play. The 26 children aged from 3 to 5 years have free access to both classrooms and the outdoor space which is seen as an extension of the indoor space – Educators didn’t feel that they needed to physically be in the classroom if there were children in it. We could see that children had been using all the spaces both inside and outside as there was evidence of constructive play but children’s play thoughts had obviously not been cut off with instructions to tidy up before moving to the next opportunity; there was time at the end of the day to do that. Having open access to the outdoors was helped by the design of the building with it’s large windows and open doors to the outside.

The garden was large and enclosed by open bar fencing allowing children to see beyond the fencing to the open bushland with its large trees and grassland. Vegetable gardens, a water pump children can operate which was unfortunately out of order (pumps and sand are not meant to go together – anybody know of a good sand resistant pump?) Lots of loose bits such as sticks, logs, stones, branches, wooden planks, sand, soil and water made this a magical environment for children who were able to change this space according to their needs. We had entered a genuine kindergarten – a children’s garden!

What did we see?
Children choosing when and where they want to eat their lunches.
Chickens with the run of the garden and of course they knew to hang around near children eating!
Lots of girls in the large sandpit – some in fairy wings – all fully engaged in what they were doing.
Two boys who had made up their own game using planks of wood – chanting and singing and when one fell the other immediately inquired if he was ok.
Mixtures of mulch, woodchips, fragrant flowers, soil and of course water in the mudkitchen.
One boy sitting inside on a large comfortable sofa reading a book.
A group of children playing with the play-dough.
Children on the swings, attempting to get the swings going by pumping little legs backwards and forwards.
A girl with a metal tray carrying a large stone sprinkled with soil and decorated with scented Jasmine.
A group of girls around a bucket of water – chatting to each other ….we don’t know what about but they all looked content and fully engaged in their activities.
A girl pushing a large wheelbarrow/trolley – intent on moving it forwards
Educators who were relaxed, happy to have a quick chat but fully there for the children.

Not only do the children have this amazing space, they also have access to the wild space surrounding the school. Jenny took us on one of the journeys the children take…..along a track, across a rock with a natural stream ‘cut’ into it and a little bubbling waterfall – the children can even get into the water!!! We could hear frogs and every now and again a little blue wren popped out, we could hear and see a variety of birds – what a motivational educational environment for young children – something we wish all children could have access to; in fact every child has the right to a motivational educational environment!

The big question…..what about risk? Answer – in more than 30 years no children have been bitten by snakes or funnel-web spiders, no children have got lost in the bush, no children have drowned in the creek, no children have sustained serious long term injuries -  there have been a few broken arms – Jenny’s son sustained a broken arm when he walked into a wall – and these broken arms were proudly celebrated by the injured child and enviously regarded by the others! In other words – LOW RISK!

Thank you very much, Jenny, for sharing this amazing children’s space with us and for allowing us in turn to share this with others. We are always here to help if Educators want more information on creating a naturalistic environment for children which we are passionate about.

Please visit Jenny on (http://progressiveearlychildhoodeducation.blogspot.com.au/)
Written and photographed by Niki Buchan of Inspired EC

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