Connecting their little learners with the natural environment, Suncoast Christian College’s bush kindy is fast becoming the region’s most popular early learning program.
In an era when outdoor play has lost much of its value, simply due to lack of time, space and resources for many modern families, Suncoast Christian College has found a way to regularly provide hours of outdoor learning experiences for their little learners through their popular bush kindy.
“Our bush kindy program started over eight years ago with our children interested in exploring nature,” explained Krystle Cullen, Little Learners Director. “It was the children’s drive and passion that led the team to consider alternate options for our Little Learners to nurture their desire to explore. From there, the program continued to grow in popularity and became a solid addition to the kindy program.”
With the College having a section of remnant rainforest on campus, providing a bush kindy program was an easy addition to the early learning curriculum.
“We are extremely lucky to be set within the Suncoast Christian College grounds, allowing us access to all areas. Behind our service, we have large bushland with mature trees, a creek bed and plenty of space to explore and gather, right at our fingertips.”
Similar to the innovative European Forest Schools, Little Learners bush kindy provides kids with the opportunity to play in the rain, climb trees, balance on fallen logs, get involved in dramatic play, find insects, draw with sticks in the ground and spend hours exploring in nature.
“They can have adventures and collect goodies from the forest for bush craft. There are opportunities to learn about the environment, bush safety and how to engage in nature play,” said Krystle.
Why is nature play so important?
Educators at Little Learners have always been strong advocates of nature play, believing that is it fundamental for every child.
“For children, play is learning,” Krystle said. “Nature play significantly improves all aspects of child development: physical, cognitive, social and emotional. Playing outdoors grows resilience, self-confidence, initiative, creativity and more. It encourages the joy of movement; it nurtures wild imaginations, experimentation, friendships, social connections and behaviour. It fosters confidence, self esteem and independence through outdoor play and exploration.”
The bush kindy program is an experience that wholly supports Little Learners’ philosophy.
“We acknowledge that children are full of curiosity about themselves, their environment and the world they live in. We advocate for children to question and reflect on their own ideas, as well as those around them; to take risks where they become, in a sense, the catalyst of their own curriculum,” Krystle continued. “By allowing the children to ‘be children’, they explore and learn about their world and themselves through play, which is intentionally organised to promote further thinking and analysis.”
“We believe childhood is precious and that an important part of childhood is being outside in nature. We know that children need more time outside in nature, which is a concept supported by research. That’s why we pioneered the concept of Bush Kindy.”
What happens on a usual bush kindy day?
The bush kindy program runs twice a week with the children safely escorted by the educators to the on-site forest. As the Sunshine Coast can get quite warm, it is usually run only in the cooler months.
Educators at Suncoast Little Learners try not to have a scheduled routine on bush kindy days, but rather let the children explore freely, allowing the children to immerse themselves in the environment.
“Children are natural learners, so this program provides children with the time, an ideal environment for them to learn in and two or three hours of uninterrupted play in the bush, using what nature has provided as learning materials,” said Krystle.
“We offer a variety of experiences that incorporate various elements of risk. It’s hard to pinpoint a favourite activity, although we do find many children gravitate towards our vine swing, mud play and the teepee that everyone helped to build,” Krystle continued.
“Stories are told, songs are sung, knowledge is shared. Through play, your children will connect with and respect this space. They will connect with their land in a way that cannot be done under a roof or within walls.”
The bush kindy is now one of Suncoast Little Learners’ most popular programs. “We find that our Bush Kindy days are our most popular, with many families on the waitlist with children eager to experience the adventure.”
“I believe our program has been successful in many ways as it not only allows the children freedom and unscheduled play but creates and provides a space for them to negotiate, analyse, run, create, dream, and get dirty,” says Krystle. “We measure our success on our Bush Kindy’s popularity as there is never a child that doesn’t want to go, and they are always asking to stay longer!”