Now while we do, of course, plan outdoor experiences extensively, what we can’t entirely plan for are the individual highlights that students take away from these programs. A giant rock becomes a piece of play equipment, a tarp becomes a roof during a rain shower and items found on a bushwalk become a piece of art.
This term, Prep students from both Kew and Donvale campuses had the opportunity to take part in their first Outdoor Education program with an excursion to the Darebin Parklands. The theme of the program was ‘Nature in our own Backyard’ with the goal of teaching students that they can find nature to explore close to home in their local parks or reserves.
On the day, students were split into small groups to rotate through a range of activities that allowed them to explore the Darebin Parklands and to spend the day with a member of the Outdoor Education team. On the Junior School Kew students' day, the forecast was set to rain, but that didn’t stop anyone from having fun. It is Melbourne after all! Rain jackets were on and the sense of adventure was still high with students embracing the opportunity to explore their surroundings; rain, hail or shine.
A 1.4km bushwalk involved rock scrambling, stepping-stones and creek crossings; all great challenges for young legs! Along the way there were flowers to smell, animals to find and mud to negotiate. It was great to see students displaying such curiosity in their surroundings, finding differently shaped leaves, identifying colours and looking for birds and bugs. The value of exploring nature close to home cannot be overstated and many students came back from the walk buzzing with energy and carrying a range of treasures they had found to show their friends in other groups.
A highlight for many students was a waterbugs session facilitated by Peter from the Darebin Creek Management Committee. Using spoons and magnifying glasses, the students captured creatures to observe and identify, learning about the water mini-beasts that play a crucial role in our local aquatic ecosystem. This activity was not only informative but also inspired the students to consider what actions they can take to look after the natural environment in their local area.
Our final activity of the day was a nature weaving session in which the students used sticks, bark, leaves and flowers that they had found on the bushwalk to create unique pieces of art to take home. For some, this was quite a mindful activity as they carefully chose items to balance the colour and texture of nature with each piece beautiful in its uniqueness.
Safe to say our first ever Prep Outdoor Education program was a huge success, reinforcing the idea that nature is not something distant or unattainable, scary or dangerous. It’s a treasure trove of possibilities right in our own neighbourhoods, with paths to explore, animals to see and colours to find.
We hope that our Prep students take the opportunity now to explore the parks and gardens near them with newfound confidence and enthusiasm which they can share with family members. The Outdoor Education staff would like to thank the Junior School staff from both Kew and Donvale for the opportunity to get outdoors with them and their students.
Outdoor Education Program Co-ordinator