Study Day for Outdoor Connections

Last week Amanda and I jumped on the train to Sydney to hear Sam Crosby, Education manager at Centennial Parklands give a talk at the Royal Botanic Gardens on the Future of Outdoor Education at Centennial Park. Sam’s talk was a reflection on her own study tour to Denmark and the UK last year, sponsored by the Friends of the Gardens, to visit a number of Nature schools, Forest schools and Outdoor Kindergartens. It was inspiring to hear about how the link between outdoor learning and wellbeing is being researched in depth with the Steno Diabetes Centre in Denmark working closely with Nature schools to really measure the impacts of an active, outdoor based childhood on these serious diseases that are becoming so prevalent in our societies. Tumlelunden in Denmark and the Michael Hall Steiner school in the UK looked wonderful in their approaches and facilities outdoors.

The Forest School Leader training that both Amanda and I undertook in the UK is deeply rooted in the Scandinavian models of outdoor learning. I was reminded how Danish outdoor Pedagogues (a specific, highly regarded teaching qualification) teach, always mindful of hand, heart and mind. Physical and emotional connection to learning has wonderful impacts on the acquisition and retention of knowledge. We also had fun playing with sticks in the beautiful setting of the Botanic Gardens lawns! I think we did OK with the who can make the tallest tower challenge. Phew!!

Next stop for us was the newly opened WILDPLAY play space at Centennial Park. Sam has been championing this development for some time now and it was wonderful to see it in action on a Friday afternoon. I can’t imagine how busy it would be on the weekend. There are lots of wonderful details and inspiration here for nature inspired playspaces.  And so good to see this investment happening with a beautifully designed space in a high profile location in Sydney. One thing I particularly loved was the Eastern Suburbs Bankisa Scrub planting. Once section’s planting refers to an Endangered Ecological Community, or EEC. This Banksia heathland once covered the foreshores of the Eastern suburbs and it’s wonderful to see these specifically locally endemic plants being used for public planting. I’m sure they will thrive. And how excellent are the bamboo giant fish trap tunnels that wind their way through this section. We enjoyed being big kids for an hour before it was time to jump back on the train south.

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