Red Hill educators create a magical fairy forest
An interest in developing a forest kindergarten has led educators at Goodstart Red Hill
to create their own magical forest – and it’s right in their backyard.
Three mornings a week, groups of kindergarten children and toddlers head off on their five minute walk to their enclosed forest space with access to Ithaca Creek.
Goodstart Red Hill
centre director Renee Mitchell said the goal was to provide children with the opportunity to connect with nature and develop an interest and respect for the environment around them.
“It took some bravery in terms of understanding of the regulations surrounding it. We invested in training for our teams, consulted with safe work team and initially started taking small groups out to understand how the children would play,” Ms Mitchell said.
“But it’s been a project which has been well worthwhile. The children are more confident, more proficient at risk assessment and are careful about their choices,” she said.
Developed with the help of Niki Buchan, an educational consultant on bush schools and the benefits of wild nature play, the visits have encouraged the children to develop an adventurous, enquiry based approach to learning.
Red Hill educational leader Skye Devereaux said through their play in the wild space, the children had learned to slow down and spend time looking and watching.
“The program allows time for the children to imagine and create using only what the environment provides. A log becomes a baby, crushed bark some snow and a bouncing log becomes a rocket, a horse or a broomstick,” Ms Devereaux said.
She said children willingly collaborated and supported one another in challenges presented and the older children were passing their skills down to the younger children.
Ms Mitchell parents loved the idea of their children spending time outside, enjoying the natural environment.
“A parent who came along recently on our walk said it was really lovely our childcare centre did something that so many of the children could get excited about. We are very happy advocators for an outdoor childhood,” Ms Mitchell said.
The team at Red Hill will soon enter a partnership with Nature Play Queensland in order to promote the centre as one which features nature play as part of the curriculum.
The centre will also hold a Winter Family Gathering on July 31 when families will be encouraged to explore a nature reserve with their children; and explore the different things parents can do with their children out in nature.
Ms Devereaux said the program could have wider implications in future.
“We wanted children to develop a love for nature and the world they live in in the hope that they have a strong connection with the environment they grow up in and, maybe one day, will figure out how to fix the environmental problems they will inherit,” she said.
“Our hope continues to be that these children will grow up with fond memories of their time spent in this space with us, and leave us having developed a strong connection to and understanding of the world around them.”
The centre won the Golden Goodie in 2014 for best educational program and practice.