What is Nature Pedagogy and how does it work in practice?
Claire Warden is the founder of two nature Kindergartens in Scotland and recently launched the International Association of Nature Pedagogy. She says there are lots of different models operating around the world – from forest schools in the UK and Bush Kindy here in Australia to Skogsmulle in Sweden and nature barnehages in Norway.
‘For me, there’s a criticality of inside spaces (inside your classroom or setting), linking to your outside school grounds, but then also linking to spaces beyond where it’s wilderness or nature on its terms, not canned and processed, which I sometimes see a lot of inside classrooms.’
Warden adds that, being outdoors 80 to 100 per cent of the time, educators need to be prepared to embrace the local climate. ‘... For us in Scotland, yes, we can put on extra clothing and we can get out there. But when you are working in climates like Australia we need to work with that.'
‘I find it astonishing that people are saying that they’ve got a very restricted time for outdoor learning, and rather than saying “actually we should really be starting our day outside”, they then push it into a timetabled zone. So we have to then change that around and say “for us to really embrace the natural world, let’s start our day outside. Then we’ll come in when it’s really hot and maybe we’ll go out again later on”.'
When it comes to health and safety, Warden says risk management helps you focus on potential hazards. ‘Which is what we need to do. But [some teachers] become so extreme in that they actually remove, or try to remove, all hazard. If you remove all hazard then actually what happens is you get, I think, a different type of risk. You get an emotional risk; that there is no challenge, there's no aspiration within your curriculum.’
She says educators need to have a conversation with the child so they’re aware of how to keep themselves safe, while still challenging themselves.
‘For us at the Auchlone Nature Kindergarten in Scotland we’ve got children who come in at two. And for that two-year-old, pushing their own personal boundary will be walking for up to a couple of kilometres if they want to. It’s jumping off a rock that might only be six inches high, but they are choosing to engage in that challenge.’
This is an edited version of an article that first appeared in Teacher magazine and has been reproduced with the permission of Australian Council for Educational Research. To read the full article and to read more articles like this visit www.teachermagazine.com.au.