The number one message I want to convey through Leap into Nature is that people, kids and adults, need to 'get back to nature', find a connection with nature and think about the natural environment in our everyday lives and activities. I say 'get back to nature' as it wasn't that long ago that humans (adults and children) were much more connected to the land and were fully aware of the seasons, where their food came from and how to keep warm and cool. This inherent knowledge created a strong appreciation and respect for the earth. With the industrial and technological revolution many of us seemed to have lost this knowledge and connection.
Our impact on the natural environment is obvious and it is immense. As soon as you wake up we start having an impact: turn the kettle on, the toaster on, watch TV, have a shower, drive the car, buy some food - just to name a few! Most of us don't even think twice about these activities as we have totally forgotten the services our natural world provides for us every day, every week, every year.
I am not here to judge or preach... rather than tell you what you should and shouldn't do I just want to say to you, and to your kids, that nature is in trouble, nature is getting more and more sick and nature needs our help to get better.
Everyone can find a way to reconnect with nature, which would hopefully lead to people also finding a way to tread more lightly on the earth. For kids - appreciation and understanding of the natural world needs to start as soon as they are born and continue throughout their lives. Studies suggest that early experiences in nature can have a positive effect on the kinds of environmental behaviors that people demonstrate later in life (Ref 1). Below the age of six, free play in the outdoors, nature-appreciation activities, and some structured conservation actions are the best way to start that connection with the natural world. This time spent in nature also has many additional benefits for kids, from increased creativity and enhanced cognitive abilities to better health and psychological well-being (Ref 1).
There are a lot of articles and blogs about connecting with nature spreading around at the moment - which is fantastic. It makes me so excited to be part of the 'new nature movement'.
Stay tuned for a Resources/Links page on my website to help you and your kids reconnect with nature!
P.S. I'm new to the blogosphere - so I am not sure if you put references in a blog, but the scientist in me feels i can't 'publish' with out so (not a proper referencing system I know - but its nearly 11 pm and I'm tired!): Ref 1: 'Influencing Conservation Action: What Research Says About Environmental Literacy, Behavior, and Conservation Results' developed by the National Audubon Society (2013).
My daughters and I visited Melbourne Zoo today. What a beautiful warm autumn day we had. As we go to the zoo frequently I time our visits to see one or two of the zookeeper talks. Today was the Seal the Loop talk. We also spent a lot of time at the reptile house and getting up close and personal with the Lemurs.
In the Seal the Loop talk, we learnt that fishing line entanglements result in the death of an estimated 1,400 seals every year in Australia. That is just devastating to hear, they are such beautiful and majestic animals. The seal show is good as the kids can get a good look at them swimming underwater, then come up to the surface to see them close up. I have never liked animals performing tricks for peoples entertainment... but the proximity to the seals allows children to see the scars that plastic, netting etc. does to their fur and skin, and how lovely, shiny and smooth they look out of the water.
To find out more go to http://zoo.org.au/get-involved/act-for-wildlife/seal-the-loop and visit the zoo!
Leap into Nature doesn't follow any one type of education approach, instead I am interested in pulling in elements from different types of education philosophies that I feel are most relevant to our Leap into Nature sessions. Mainly, for me to explore how best to interact, engage and pass on knowledge to a diverse group of kids and parents.
So, I have been doing lots of reading, as per my last post!
Under a Montessori approach, I like the term 'absorbent mind' which is a term that characterises children from birth to 6 years old. This is so true as I always refer to my kids as little 'sponges'!
Other elements of a Montessori approach which link in quite nicely with Leap into Nature sessions include:
I think that's the beauty of having an outdoor playgroup, children will feel less restricted and its more about them exploring, playing and learning new things about their world in the process.
Having two young children has meant my interest in the way they learn and develop has increased. One of the key documents that I have been reading is the Early Years Learning Framework for Australia. There are sections which also link in quite well with Leap into Nature and the objective of having an outdoor, nature-based playgroup, where the main focus is unstructured play and play-based learning.
The document lists five key learning outcomes, the main elements that caught my eye were related to Outcome 2: ' Children are connected with and contribute to their world'. In this section, I found the following points most relevant. Children:
These points encapsulate what I would love to develop in my own children and those that wish to be a part of Leap into Nature sessions.
You can download the EYLF from http://education.gov.au/early-years-learning-framework
Reference: Commonwealth of Australia (2009) The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia: Becoming, Being and Belonging. Produced by the Australian Government Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations for the Council of Australian Governments, Canberra.
Today my daughters and I visited Healesville Sanctuary. The highlights were my daughter patting two carpet pythons, the bird show in the flight arena, the show on Leadbeater's Possum, and the Tassie Devils.
I recommend taking your kids here to begin their love and appreciation of Australian wildlife. Especially getting to know the plight of the Leadbeater's Possum - this is our state faunal emblem and is Endangered with extinction- yet many people haven't even heard of it. One of the biggest threats to its survival is the logging of old growth forest for wood chips and making paper. It would be so shameful to let this species disappear knowing what we know and letting it happen. Google Leadbeater's Possum and show your kids - they're super cute and need our protection!
Today was our first official Leap into Nature day at Braeside Park. Thanks to all the mums and kids who made it a great day! I was so happy that all the kids had a great time, running free and wild in the bush.
We found fungi, ant nests, rabbit diggings and scats, smelt eucalyptus leaves, made nests, caught bugs and watched ducks in the pond and when we were super quiet we could hear little Common Froglets calling from grass around the edge of the pond.
Looking froward to our next adventure at Koomba Park on 4 June!
Today was a site 'recon' day for Leap into Nature Club. I like to check out sites to figure out access, what activities to do with the kids and themes to incorporate for future sessions.
We visited Dandenong Valley Parklands. Within the Parklands we first visited Bushy Park Wetlands. Lots of ducks to look at and listen to at the bird hide and it has given me some nifty ideas to do with the kids.
Next up was Koomba Park, one of my sites I surveyed 10 times during my Honours research year... it was fun to be back after 10 years!! We got to listen to one of my favourite frogs calling away, the Eastern Smooth Frog (or Victorian Smooth Froglet)! A frog that breeds in ephemeral wetlands and only during the wet autumn months.
We then had a sad but interesting experience where we jumped off the beaten track and found a dead Sugar Glider :-( ! We could see a nest box in a nearby tree and were trying to understand what might have happened to the poor little Sugar Glider. I explained Sugar Gliders glide through the air at night from tree to tree.. my daughter thought maybe it had hit its head as it was gliding and died!
It gave me a chance to talk about the 'circle of life' and show a photo of a Sugar Glider on the Museum Victoria Field Guide database app: http://museumvictoria.com.au/discoverycentre/mv-field-guide-app/ Its a great resource while out 'in the field'. I also followed it up at home and showed her a photo of a Sugar Glider in a field guide and she drew a lovely picture of a happy, alive, girl Sugar Glider with her watching it at night with the stars and moon out. I love how she has even drawn little claws as she was able to see these features close up!
We had quite an adventurous morning, hope you can join us on LiNC sessions at these great locations.