When Jenny Sheward-Spence, CEO of Early Ed Resources, witnessed the results of the Forest School on children overseas, she was determined to apply the same nature-based approach to learning back home. Now, her Bush Kindy Explorers program is opening little minds to the wonders of the bush.
In a world of iPads and recommended ‘daily screen-time’ quotas, the concept of outdoor play feels a bit foreign. Which is exactly why programs like the Mudgeeraba Education and Care Centre’s Bush Kindy Explorers are so important – and so popular.
“The program has been running for over three years now, and the response has been fantastic,” says Kylie McLean, Mudgeeraba Education and Care Centre Operations Manager. “Some parents have chosen us purely because of the Bush Kindy program, while others who were more sceptical about it have totally been converted.”
Between the Mudgeeraba Centre and its two sister centres at Benowa and Bundall, the program operates every day except Wednesday. For a whole term, the children will visit one outdoor location for a range of different location-based activities, ranging from climbing and collecting to building houses and makeshift rods to “fish” in shallow water. The next term, they do it all again in a brand-new location.
“The program is totally optional, but it’s rare for a child to want to stay behind,” says Kylie. “It’s also included in the regular program schedule of the three childcare centres, meaning there are no additional costs for the parents.”
The Bush Kindy Explorers program has garnered the attention of local parents, as well as local childcare centres who are keen to give it a go. In an effort to spread the benefits of outdoor play, staff at the Mudgeeraba Centre are helping other childcare centre workers to implement the program, showing them how to get involved with nature in their local area.