Place-based nature kindergarten in Victoria, Australia: No tools, no toys, no art supplies
Ame Christiansen, Siobhan Hannan, Karen Anderson, Lisa Coxon & Doug Fargher
VIDEO to come:
The last decade has witnessed a steady increase in the number of preschool programs operating in Australia where children access a natural outdoor space (in the bush, at the beach or in local parkland) for an extended period of time each week. Over a hundred such programs are now estimated to be operating in Victoria alone. In this paper Victorian educators from the Early Childhood Outdoor Learning Network respond to concerns regarding the direction of Forest Schools and the commodification of Forest School practices in the UK as raised by Leather, Journal of Outdoor and Environmental Education (2018), and the suggestion that a similar model of Forest Schools has spread to Australia. It is argued that the proliferation of nature kindergarten programs in Victoria has followed a more organic trajectory that is less about emulating a set of imported practices, and more about responding to local conditions and influences. Teaching practice in these programs has been described as ‘naked pedagogy,’ emphasizing the role of child-led play without ‘tools, toys and art supplies.’ The authors argue that, despite a considerable and growing body of both popular and academic literature on the benefits of nature and play, few studies have explored this type of nature kindergarten program in the context of early childhood education in Australia.