Last Bush Kinder PD for 2019

We are pleased to announce that we are going to fit in one more Starting an Outdoor Learning or Bush Kinder Program into 2019, a busy year which feels like it’s already hurlting towards the end.

The location will be the beautiful and inspiring setting of the Wollongong Botanic Gardens, so accessible via public transport and car. We have exclusive use of the Towri Centre, located in the Bush Tucker garden. 9am to 3pm Friday 1st November 2019.

The day is suitable for Early Years practitioners and Primary teachers, providing 6 hours of NESA accredited PD.

Please pass on to your centre, school and networks to take full advantage of the End of Term discount for bookings before 28.09.19!

We hope you might join us for a full day of  collaboration, knowledge sharing and fun.

For bookings please visit:

Nov 19 PD flyer

Summer is here… so lets get outside!

In all of the busyness of the week before Christmas, many families will have January holiday plans still on the TO-DO list. This coming January Outdoor Connections are only running 3 days:

9th January: Explorers Day North Werri

10th January: Outdoor Bush Adventure Jerrara Dam

11th January: Girls 10-13 years Adventure day North Werri and Coast Track

So if you would like to book your kids in for some outdoor fun in beautiful Gerringong or Kiama jump on and don’t miss out. We had to reschedule our special girls 10-13 years day, so there are a few spots available on that day too, it will be a fabulous, fun, creative day of exploring and girl-power!

Amanda and I would like to wish all of our fabulous families, supporters, followers and friends all the best for a happy and peaceful festive season, however you celebrate. In 2019 we are taking a break from our current format and having a rethink about how we can continue to bring connection to the outdoors to more kids, families, teachers and beyond.

It’s been a great year of running Professional development for teachers, Bush Kinder, Home school sessions, our school holiday programs, attending conferences and beyond. We continually meet fabulous people through what we do and we want to thank you all for not only trusting in us with your kids or your time but inspiring and teaching us plenty along the way too.

We hope that you will continue to visit the places that we have run sessions with your kids, get in there and travel through a magic door together into the imaginative world of childhood and build a cubby or den. Take a rope and make a maze, try your hand at some ephemeral art or start a regular nature journal for your family adventures, find a sit-spot and listen to the natural world all around you. If the crazy tropical weather is going to continue get everyone a good raincoat, don’t let it stop you!

We feel the stresses of modern life probably most keenly this week, as pressures of expectation around Christmas, gift giving, special meal preparation, travel, family visits, the end of the school year and arranging our own work leave or just juggling kids and work if like Penny you are self-employed. Nature can be a powerful antidote, so free yourself up to spend some time out there and allow the power of stillness, fresh air and the beauty of the natural world to soothe.

Some highlights from our 2018. Thanks for being a part of this year’s journey!

Penny & Amanda

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10+ girls Adventure

10+girlsadventureDayLast holidays we promoted a day for the Teen girls – this didn’t run in the end (not to worry we will try it again over the summer if there is interest!) but we did get some enquiries for the 10+ girls. This age group is often described as the ‘tweens’ but for some reason that term sets my teeth on edge. Yes, they are now into that maelstrom of transition, their emotional lives are becoming more complicated, bodies growing and changing rapidly. I can’t think of a better term but maybe they don’t need a label that sets them apart? We love working with this age group, remembering the girls that we were too and how to encourage them towards their best.

So at the end of the Term we are planning a great day out to celebrate, for some, the end of Primary. Or perhaps the end of the first year of High school, or maybe moving up to year 5 or 6… depending on age and stage. The day will be for girls between 10 to 13 years. They will need the longer legs to make the distance that we plan to cover on the coast track – no piggy backs for this group!
Over the course of the day we will:

  • Learn some good stretches to prepare our muscles for walking and some mindfulness for unwinding.
  • Make a Nature journal, do some sketching and explore other ways to make nature art, which is a lovely way to record future outdoor adventures.
  • Go for approx. 10km walk.
  • Swim in a secret rockpool (if the conditions are right).
  • Make new friends.

Celebrate being awesome girls with the skills & ability within to enjoy our beautiful coastal environment!

Please register your interest and we will open booking when we have minimum numbers. Cost: $75.00/ day (10am – 3pm, nature journal & art materials included)


Fridays are Art Walk day – for the grown-ups!

Penny is Outdoor Connections resident artist. My practice covers many disciplines but one I love and encourage when we are working with the kids on Outdoor Connections holiday sessions is the practice of making ephemeral art. I started this practice in 2016 when my son Felix was still in pre-school and time in the studio making paintings was even harder to come by. But we spent a lot of time outside together and so I started channelling my creativity towards what I could create from what I found. Site-specific installations inspired by and connected to nature.

I love sharing this practice so I invite you to join me for:
Art Walks, on Fridays in Term 4 – starting on Friday 19th October.

A creative session for adults entirely in the great outdoors.

Starting Friday 19th October, 10am to 12:30pm. $40 per session, or pre-book for 4 sessions for $140.00

Each week will be at a new location on the lovely Gerringong, Kiama, Gerroa coastline. The aim is to go for a ramble and over the course of 2.5 hours to find somewhere inspiring to work and something(s) to be creative with. This is not a formal art class. But you will be creatively challenged! This practice is meditative and mindful. Expect a deep connection to yourself and your surroundings! You will be welcome to work on your own or collectively. The only rule is that the piece must be left at the end to return to nature, or to the bin if manmade materials have been used. Making a photographic record or sketch will be encouraged.
No experience necessary, suitable for adults, all welcome.
While I aim to explore some interesting and off the beaten track parts of our coastline I am also happy to tailor the location to meet the ability of the group. If you have mobility challenges please let me know and I will work out how to accommodate your needs.

The group size is limited to 10 and pre-booking via Trybooking is required. Due to the kinds of locations and concentration required by participants, these sessions won’t be suitable for young children, sorry. But it is a chance for busy people, parents included, to have some time out and connect to the creativity we all possess and the beauty of nature that we have around us.
19th October – Seven Mile beach Picnic area – Beach & Sandtrack
2nd November – Seven Mile Beach – Littoral Rainforest
16th November – Coast Walk North from Gerringong
23th November – Jerrara Dam (a gorgeous gem on the edge of Kiama with a range of environments)

to receive a discount on all 4 booked as a package click here

Teaching teachers….

Copy of A5 expo flyer

This year Outdoor Connections have ventured into Professional Development territory. Amanda diligently wrote our courses to be accredited with NESA and we have found ourselves delivering PD in a few different forms: as a 2 day weekend event in beautiful Gerroa, (where even what feels like the only day of lashing rain this year didn’t deter our keen-as teachers from enjoying a good old bush-bash on our 2nd day), a 1 day condensed PD day in Gymea with some more super enthusiastic teachers, in-school PD days for full staff at Gerringong Public, Waratah West Public, St Anthony of Padua school, Austral Public school, St Mary’s Milton and Parameadows in Wollongong.

We are finding a great desire and enthusiasm from within the teaching profession to get kids outdoors not just for play but for learning in rich outdoor environments. We are really eager to share our combined skills and knowledge with teachers to help make this happen.

At short notice we announce our last PD opportunity for 2018. We are repeating the 2 day format at Gerroa as it just works so well. Register before the start of T4 for an extra special early bird price! We hope to see you there!

Yes sign me up! OK – please fill in this form and we will invoice you once we have enough to go ahead, so please spread the word!

Girls own adventure!

Empowering women and girls to get outside is a passion of mine. A passion that started early in life, as a teenager while most of my friends were reading Dolly magazine I had my head stuck in the adventure magazine Wild. My part time job wages were spent buying hiking boots, a tent and simple camping gear.

During High School, I miraculously found myself in a group of multi-age friends who embraced the outdoors. We hiked, biked and camped our way through our teens, mostly a group of girls we learnt confidence, positive body image and had faith in our own abilities. It really was a girls own adventure! We laughed all the way, at our mishaps and wins. We could confidently navigate from a map, set a route and cover some serious kilometres with heavy packs. Weekends were spent overcoming challenges; leeches, cold nights in tents, hard uphill sections and mentally challenging long walks. However, the resilience I built up during these activities only promoted me to keep going both in the bush and in everyday life. The confidence I had in my physical ability to walk, scramble and climb was considerable. Body image was more about if I felt strong enough to get up the mountain than how I looked in my jeans. When I was physically and mentally able I was happy. Fundamentally, I believe the skills I leant in the bush gave me a solid foundation for the challenges of being a teenager and becoming a woman.

These physical and emotional capabilities have become cornerstone to my life, still in the bush is where I am most alive. Scrambling through the last few years of finishing a PhD, starting a small business and life uncertainty has been tumultuous. However, just like when I  was as a teenager, the outdoors has got me through it. Earlier this year my partner Matt and I set off on a 35 day hike, walking the top of the South Island of New Zealand. It was a challenge for us emotionally and physically, while both experienced walkers this was the longest we’d been out on the trail for. The huge days up mountains, carrying up to ten days of food at once, injuries and walking 10 – 40km a day were some of the best experiences of both of our lives, and we know we will go back!


While the outdoors is not an antidote to modern day society, it is a chance to slow down the pressures, be and do something different. You don’t have to head off for days or weeks into the bush. Small snippets in our everyday lives are also really beneficial. Nature offers the opportunity to be mindful, show gratitude and focus on our wellbeing. This upcoming holidays we are planning something special, a day just for 12 – 15 year old girls.

A day outdoors with supportive female mentors; walking, journaling, stretching and creating could be just what your teen needs. We’d love to have as many girls along for our leisurely walk of the Kiama coastal track with many pitstops along the way. While for some it may just simply be a great day out and a chance to unwind, for others it may spark an interest in the outdoors and the beginning of a life of adventure. The day is suited to all interests and abilities, every teen girl is super welcome! Expressions of interest are invited by replying to this blog or send an email to



See you out there!


Green time replaces screen time!


More and more we are hearing from parents that their children are addicted to screens. The iPads and devices are the main source of entertainment. This concerns parents as their children are having difficulty concentrating, not interacting with their peers and are finding it hard to focus.

Our holiday activities are designed to counter the screen time. Empower children with skills to go outside and PLAY! Yes that’s right – PLAY and do it independently! We scaffold the day, provide resources and mentor children to access the outdoors. A day with Outdoor Connections often provides children with the confidence to explore their place, build cubbies, make nature creations and enjoy being outside.

Why not book in your child for a day this coming holidays?

An adventurous day out for the girls…

As two women passionate about the outdoors and adventure, Penny & Amanda are keen to help foster this connection with the young women in our community at that time in their lives when they often retreat inwards. Both emotionally and literally as more and more our girls stay put in their rooms, homes or other indoor environments (the shops!). To help our teens foster their connected-ness to the incredible environment on our doorstep – which is theirs to explore – we are offering a Girls Adventure day for 12+ high school girls.

The full day (9am – 3pm) will involve a substantial walk of approx 10km, an exploration of nature journaling (all materials supplied) with Penny, (our in-house artist), some mindfullness and tips for stretching with Amanda, (our in-house walker/adventurer par excellence). And maybe even a swim in a hidden rockpool for the mermaids within (shh don’t tell anyone). Bring lunch and swimmers!

At the moment we are taking expressions of interest and will run this day once we have min 10 bookings, max 15. We will let you know when you can book once we get enough to run so share with your friends and networks!

$80 pp includes a nature journal kit and the usual fantastic Outdoor Connections expertise to create a memorable day out.

Please register here


Home School Nature Play and Outdoor Learning

We are back this term with more home school sessions in two locations!

Outdoor Connections facilitates Home School sessions that focus on inquiry learning during nature play, discovery and exploration. Our sessions foster friendships and build a sense of community amongst the families.

We have a strong focus on developing resilience, social skills, confidence and friendships. Activities are designed to foster teamwork and encourage individuality.

Our sessions are focused on aspects of the curriculum and presented in engaging ways. We conduct scientific investigations, complete geography fieldwork and encourage creativity in story play.

Sessions are suited to 5 – 12 year olds, parents/ guardians stay with their child/ren to assist and join in the fun. Younger siblings attend free of charge.

We welcome back returning families and are excited to meet new friends. Individual needs can be catered for and we actively promote access to the outdoors for all.

Bookings are pre-booked at

Cost: $40 per child/ session $100 per 3 child family/ session

Time: 10 – 2

Session Details:

Seven Mile Beach National Park
Wednesday 6th June
Feathers, Fur, Fins and Fieldwork
Geography – Maths – Science
Which animals can we find in the environment?

Narrawallee Inlet
Friday 15th June
The Science of a Shelter
Science – Maths – English
What materials male strong and waterproof shelters?

Narrawallee Inlet
Wednesday 27th June
Feathers, Fur, Fins and Fieldwork
Geography – Maths – Science
Which animals can we find in the environment?

Forest Schools in Australia? Is it time to consider place-based outdoor learning as more than a drag and drop approach?

There has been a recent interest in the Forest School movement in Australia. Here is some background of the Outdoor Connections team and a link to a recent paper written by Amanda, along with her PhD supervisors.

Forest School in Australia is a controversial topic. Where do you stand? Yes? No? Somewhere in the middle? A blend of what you already do? Part of a puzzle of training?

No matter where you stand on the issue there is no doubt that the intentions of Forest School training and practice are great! Essentially, it is about getting kids outside more often in meaningful ways. BUT there are a few things to consider namely:

* We need to acknowledge the actual origins of Forest School come from Scandinavian outdoor learning.
* The practices of the UK Forest School model are from a vastly different physical environment, weather and culture.
* If Forest School is about connecting children to the outdoors, we should be connecting children to their local outdoor environment – in local ways.
* Especially in schools, what is the underlying pedagogy for outdoor learning?

Where do Outdoor Connections two founders sit with this issue?

Interestingly, Amanda and Penny were two of Australia’s first Forest School Trained Practitioners. Narrowly missing each other on courses back in 2009. True story, to this day we wonder how they both ended up living in a town of 3000 people? We don’t know but lucky us and lucky town hey!

A decade ago, Penny was living In the UK with her family and after her training continued on to run a Forest School in London. She had been living in the UK for an extended period and also completed landscape design, so was very in touch with her surrounds. These experiences have led Penny to work in a variety of outdoor settings in Australia, most recently at Bundanon where her considerable arts based practice comes into it’s own.


To complete her training, Amanda went on a study tour to the UK funded by the ACU Bob and Margaret Frater Scholarship. Notably, Amanda had taught in London for a couple of years as she roamed around the world back in 2001/02 – so the UK education system was known to her. She went on to complete a wall full of certificates in outdoor learning, a superb study tour to Denmark and teach literally hundreds of children outside. Eventually, her Phd focused on place-based outdoor learning in a primary school setting.

Both Amanda and Penny gained considerable amounts from their Forest School training. Additionally, the practical experiences Penny gained in the UK offered her the opportunity to really put the training into practice in context.

Fast forward almost a decade from when Penny and Amanda completed their training and there are many Australian Forest School leaders. Trained both in the UK and Australia, with a variety of training providers. The problem now is how does this “fit” in an Australian cultural, environmental and educational space?

Sure, the Forest School program is wonderful! However, it is just that a “program” with a highly structured set of routines and practices that need to be followed. Adding to the confusion, is our understanding of what and what does not constitute a “Forest School”. Can we learn from the program – absolutely YES! Is it the be all and end all – absolutely NO!

Outdoor Connections prides itself on utilising Forest School practices as part of a very large puzzle of training, experiences and culture. In our holiday and homeschool programs we adapt the training to our very Australian settings. In our teacher PD programs we broaden and theorise this practice into a sound Australian place-based outdoor learning pedagogy. Ours is one of many QUALITY Australian programs that is responsive to place, taking into account childhood development, local community and culture.

What do we really think about outdoor learning/ nature play etc etc etc (insert term here)? Australia trust yourself! We have amazing outdoor educators, nature play practitioners and superb teachers. Look towards OUR culture and environment, explore the links to the valuable Indigenous culture in your area. Value local knowledge and be responsive to place.

Is outdoor learning suitable for Australian schools? You bet!! The early childhood community has embraced it and primary schools are catching on. Outdoor Connections is extremely proud to be able to offer accredited training for teachers. Last weekend in the blazing heat and then rain (so south coast weather!) our group of teachers were super keen to see the spread out outdoor learning in Australia, using place-based pedagogies to inform their practice.

The ever insightful Dr Mark Leather, from the UK started rumbles a few years ago that there was more to outdoor learning than Forest Schools, so he wrote a paper on the topic. He then called for experts in the field to respond to his thinking.

For those of us interested in the academic opinions of Dr Amanda Lloyd and her two PhD supervisors Associate Professor Tonia Gray and Dr Son Truong … here is their response, Place-based outdoor learning: Moe than a drag and drop approach. (Unfortunately, it’s a subscription article so you’ll need to be in a library system to access it… but I suspect those interested will have their means to grab it).

In a nutshell …. Amanda, Tonia and Son say ..

The Forest School movement offers children valuable outdoor experiences; however, pedagogically it is under-theorised and lacking research in diverse contexts. As a result, it has at times become a “drag and drop” program, which does not necessarily acknowledge local place, environment or culture. Alternatively, place-based outdoor learning is examined as a place-responsive approach, where a year-long outdoor program was implemented and evaluated in an Australian primary school. Place-based outdoor learning is a broader integrated approach that is interconnected with place, curriculum and learners. It re-envisions a perspective on outdoor teaching to individualise meaningful learning in nature, within specific contexts.

Whatever you think about the issue, in the end really the message is simple. Go outside, take the kids with you and have fun!

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