by Team O (Courtney Orrin), Year 2/3 students
Growing evidence continues to highlight the benefits of nature play. In 2019 I had the opportunity of engaging in professional development facilitated by Nature Play South Australia. It was evident then that this was something that was worth embedding into student learning. This training specifically focused on how educators could move their teaching of the curriculum outside, creating what’s perceived as an outdoor classroom. With continued research, I have become aware as to how extensive and valuable these experiences can be.
Covid presented ample challenges, but it became an encourager for time spent outdoors. The SA Nature Play timetable promotes ‘loose parts play’ which explicitly teaches us how to use materials that have no specific directions nor purpose. This play is easily integrated with the Australian Curriculum too, which made the decision of creating a timetable that has a weekly dedicated time to this, simple.
“As children experiment in this type of play, they are learning and making decisions all the time. What type of rocks and how should they be stacked to make the best tower; can they be used to build a ladder, a bridge or a cave; how many different ways they can be sorted – by weight, colour, size, shape; what happens if they are painted, then stamped, rolled, washed? Everything in nature has a different and unique texture, smell, temperature, taste, weight and design. Their play possibilities are endless. Their uniqueness encourages children to problem solve, and to be creative in how they use these items. And in growing their understanding of where these things come from, how they can be collected sensitively, and how these items can be used, we are helping to grow their connection with the natural world” – Nature Play SA
What skills have they developed so far?
- Sensory: investigating textures, weights, patterns, shapes and what happens when you bang, rub, crush them together
- Imagination and creativity: determining what purpose they will have and how they will be used
Developed skills and competency in:
- fine and gross motor skills
- Increases the variety and level of play experiences – social, constructive, symbolic, dramatic, exploratory
Throughout the year, the students of Team O have navigated their way through the Nature Play timetables with the ambition of developing how they immerse themselves within each experience. This has proved to be an absolute success and this became evident as we committed to being a part of National Outdoor Education Day. National Outdoor Education Day is a movement instigated by Nature Play SA. Shannon Clarke and I ventured to Chookarloo Campground, in Kuitpo Forest.
Our adventure commenced with a scavenger hunt; small groups explored the forest whilst collecting data. The students then worked individually to create critters or characters with the resources that they discovered along their hike around the campsite. Heavy branches, long sticks, dried leafy branches and a sporadic collection over other natural goods, had our team building cohesively an array of tepees.
“I felt confident at Kuitpo because nature play has helped me learn more things in the environment” -Lucas
“When I am older I want to work in architecture. In nature play, I have learnt how to build stronger bases and structures. I have learnt from my mistakes and I am really proud because I have learnt how to more patient with myself and others”. -Oscar
The theme for this year’s Outdoor Classroom Day was ‘Love the Outdoors’ and our ambition to build on this within team of two/ three students has been efficacious. In each Nature Play session along with our Kuitpo excursion, our learners have become more resilient, more connected to nature, developed themselves as thinkers, creators and individuals. They have established core skills in team work and communication whilst exhibiting raw joy and a real love for the outdoors.