Our Bush Skills program takes place entirely outdoors and allows young children to explore nature and develop bush skills in a safe and inclusive environment. Children learn and play in all weather, and facilitators construct shelter from the weather if needed. Children spend up to a full day outdoors in wild spaces with the opportunity to drive their own skill development through instruction and the exploration of the natural environment. Children are given the opportunity to learn how to manage risks, use their imagination and creativity, and build respect for one another and for the natural environment.
There is a Norwegian saying, which is often referred to in forest schools: “There’s no bad weather, only bad clothing”. If it is raining, children must come dressed appropriately, with a rain jacket, gumboots, weatherproof pants, a towel and a change of clothes. This is so we are able to have plenty of fun out in the rain! Facilitators and children will build a shelter together when needed, where everyone can stay dry for meals, rest, circle time and if we just need to have a break from the rain.
Our sessions take place in a variety of locations in and around Port Macquarie. Due to the children's safety these locations are not publicised. General areas are given on enquiry, and once children are enrolled families are informed of the locations for the term. There are permits in place with a variety of landowners such as private landowners and the Port Macquarie-Hastings Council. The sites are permanent for a term unless there is an extreme weather warning where certain bush sites are unsafe. Our goal is to move the programs from site to site to minimise the environmental impact.
Each site is accessed with a thorough risk assessment, and a daily safety check to ensure everyone's safety. The locations for The Nature School programs have specific characteristics. The natural spaces need to be explorable with enough open space as well as bushy areas. It should be away from major traffic areas and a safe environment to explore. The Nature School chooses locations that are not overly humid as this could attract mosquitoes, leeches and ticks. The aim is to explore different spaces within the community and ensure they are used appropriately and respected by children and families.
Learning how to manage risk is essential in early childhood. As Sara Knight describes in her book Risk & Adventure in Early Years Outdoor Play: Learning from Forest Schools – “An uneven surface or sand and mud are a challenge and a risky situation for children that are learning how to walk. However, if children only learn how to walk on even, concrete or carpet surfaces, when they are eventually faced with an uneven surface they might be unwillingly put in danger as they do not know how to use the space or how to walk.” At The Nature School the aim is to feed children’s innate need for risk with reasonable risk in order to prevent them finding greater unmanaged risks for themselves.
Absolutely. Part of the annual fee payment of $130 covers insurance costs associated with your child attending the programs. The organisation’s insurance policy is very comprehensive and covers $20 million public liability, professional indemnity, campfires, bushwalks and general outdoor play.
The team understands that it can take time for children to develop this skill. Instructors are happy to assist children to use the toilet (such as sitting on the toilet, assisting to put their clothing on/off, using toilet paper), but are unable to offer places to children who use nappies. The Nature School apologises if this is the case for your child, and looks forward to offering a place to them in the near future.
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