Home' Advocate Communications : Fiordland Advocate 22 December 2011 Contents LOCAL NEWS
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Visit Ivon Wilson Park in Te Anau
on Wednesday mornings and the
bush will not only ring with the
sounds of birds but the excited
chatter and laughter of a small
group of children from Fiordland
Kindergarten exploring nature.
The 13ha park surrounding Lake
Henry becomes a playground
for children climbing trees,
clambering over fences and
rambling through tall grass. Under
the watchful eyes of teachers and
parent-helpers the kids look at
home in the wilderness.
The initiative to take the classroom
outdoors was spearheaded by
head teacher Clair Maley-Shaw
who is passionate about nature
and had already run a strong
programme. She wanted to build
on this and towards the end
of 2009 began the journey of
introducing the Nature Discovery
programme by taking a group of
older children out for one morning
a week to experience nature.
"The idea has been practised in
Europe for decades, but somehow
in our over-regulated New Zealand
society no one has tried it here,"
"We believe that by our children
experiencing nature on a regular
basis -- not just walking through it
but being in it -- they will become
nature-literate and that they will
grow into adults with a lifelong love
of, passion of and a desire to care
for their environment.
"The name itself is reflective of our
practice, we didn't want to call it a
forest kindergarten as we wanted
the programme to be more than
just a bush experience, and reflect
the findings of other researchers
from around the world in a New
Children must be four-and-a-half
years old to participate in the
programme and the kindergarten
staff ensure there is always a 4:1
ratio of children to adults on their
Kindergarten staff have done a
huge amount of work around risk
assessment. They see their role as
teachers to eliminate hazards that
children may not see, but not the
risk within the play.
"We do not remove or stop
challenges for children. The
feeling of being on an adventure
is thrilling to them. Climbing a
tree, scurrying up a steep bank
or balancing on a fallen log
gives the children a great feeling
of achievement and helps in
developing self-esteem," she said.
Among other benefits the
programme helps to develop
balance, agility and confidence.
Conspicuous is the absence of any
toys, yet the children's imagination
and creativity shine. They find
places to dig, sticks, leaves and
flowers to play with, make sand
castles with moats, rivers and
boats from fallen logs, sculptures
from twigs and moss.
Mrs Maley-Shaw said one of the
most significant findings to date
was the amount of community
support for the programme.
Even though there was only
one adult rostered to help,
often three or four turned up.
Fathers in particular had become
enthusiastic participants because
they feel more at home outdoors
than at the kindergarten.
Interest in the Te Anau model has
spread throughout the country
and Mrs Maley-Shaw has even
done presentations on the Nature
Discovery Programme overseas.
The kindergarten's own blog:
blogspot.com is among the
publicity that has sparked interest
from other kindergartens in New
Zealand which are now
following Te Anau's lead by
instigating similar programmes
Mrs Maley-Shaw feels strongly
that what they are doing is what
all New Zealand children should
"Our voice from Fiordland could
create a ripple that will hopefully
spread. New Zealand sells itself
on its clean and green image, if we
want to keep it that way our
children need to
be in nature in its
wildest forms so that
they become true
(guardians) of our
whenua (land)," she
Discovering nature the best way to teach
Callum McMurtrie (left) and Hunter Grieve explore the possibilities for play
offered by a rotten tree.
By Alina Suchanski
RIGHT: Getting down
and dirty is all part
of the fun for Hamish
Te Anau's Ivon Wilson Park offers a myriad of trails for young explorers.
Pictured (above left from front) are Harry McGlade followed by, Orla Cox
(obscured) Joshua Parkinson and Briar Maynard and (above, right) Dylan
Murray, Jordan Humphrys and Gabbie Fox
Each outing is a thrilling adventure. Teachers see their role as eliminating hazards that children may not see, but not the
risk within the play. Here Harry Prendergast and Charlie Carran test their climbing skills.
Who needs a fancy playground slide? Pictured (from front to back) Martha Hill,
Debbie Cole, James Murdoch, Georgia Lindsay, Riyanna Stevenson, Lucy Kane
and Chase MacRae certainly don't.
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