The Elephant in the Room. 

By Bec Carey

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It’s a hypothetical elephant and there is no room just natural open space, but it’s still a hot topic for discussion….. Nature Pedagogy vs Traditional classroom methods.

Often its families with questions and concerns about when their children will engage in real learning, when will we start teaching them and what do you mean you don’t do worksheets?! Usually this concern begins when children reach 4 or 5 years old and the school readiness questions begin to fly around like mozzies on a balmy summers night. My advice? Arm yourself with fresh knowledge or alternatively some heavy duty bug spray. But they say knowledge is power, so I usually just go with that.

Nature play provides endless opportunities for children to not only unleash their imagination and connect with nature, it challenges them to overcome fears, test new limits and build resilience. Resilience is somewhat lacking in the children of today, is that bubble wrap still on? Excuse me what aisle is the resilience in? Sorry you can’t buy resilience from a store or even online, you have to build it from experience. Raw, natural experiences.

In a raw&unearthed childhood, the child is armed with nothing but a smile and the rich glow of confidence shining as they make it further up a tree than they ever have before. The child feels the emptiness of an unfinished task trying for the third, forth and fifth time to light a campfire with a flint. Although unsuccessful for now, perseverance is the key. Running, stripped bare of any commercial influence just an imagination and a stick, the child’s mind is wild and free. Better still, the child is happy, that grin can not be wiped.  Confidence, resilience and perseverance are transferable. Even into a structured unstimulating classroom setting.  Happy vibes are infectious. School readiness overly outdated. It’s all about life experience, for the now and into the beyond.

In the early years, children are making sense of their world. They are absorbing knowledge and building understanding of everything in it. As they embark on this journey, simultaneously they are learning about themselves, their limits and identity as a whole. Our role as educators is to guide and provide opportunities for them to explore, experience and develop theories and understanding of their world and their own identity. How will a child view themselves as capable and confident, if as adults we don’t? How does a work sheet support unique qualities and individual learning styles and levels? How does sitting still and crossed legged listening to an adult instruct and inform, allow the child to express their ideas and experiment with theories?

Within natures playground, every child is catered for. There are many opportunities to explore. There is no right or wrong. There is just space and time to build new skills along with some pretty damn awesome cubby’s. These skills are life skills, life’s essentials. Don’t you want to send children off to school armed with confidence,strength, resilience and determination? We all want the best for our children, so why do we insist on an academic approach in the early years? In NSW where I live, children enter the school system into Kindergarten, historically meaning ‘children’s garden‘. Sounds to me like the meaning got lost along the way, along with common sense and children’s resilience. Surely thirteen years of structured comparative schooling  is enough in one lifetime? I can sense the fall of outdated views, our united voices are being heard. I can see the  open wounds of offended educators who are stubbornly set in their ways, i’ve been doing it this way for years. I hear the outcry as parents and educators alike think we need to prepare children for university at age 5, what do you mean they just play?!  This is only the beginning it’s just a graze, I’ve barely scraped the surface. Don’t be offended, reflect and create change. Be resilient.

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