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Reflections Magazine : Reflections Magazine Issue 53 Summer 2013
8 We have also established a chicken coop and vegetable and herb gardens, although we do not see these as an end in themselves in terms of educating for sustainability. Rather, we believe that it is the discussions that happen everyday with children within these spaces that make these learning experiences meaningful investigations towards sustainability. Rain, Wind and Mud: Connecting with Nature We believe that facilitating each child’s connection with the natural world and helping them to understand and respect all aspects of nature is fundamental to educating for sustainability. Last winter we noticed that many of the children enjoyed running out into the rain and washing the plastic dinosaurs in the water that was running off from gutters and higher ground. The children continually voiced their enjoyment of playing in the rain, and as a team we began to question ourselves ‘ Why do we stop children from running in the raining?’ Is it because it is harmful for them? Or is it inconvenient for us as educators? Or perhaps it is something that we think parents will not be happy about. We decided to investigate this further, and to our surprise discovered that many parents were supportive of letting the children enjoy the outdoors in all kinds of weather. We sent the following article to our families: http://www.letthechildrenplay.net/2013/06/say- yes-to-outdoor-play-in-winter.html, and asked them to tell us what they thought about their children playing outdoors in the types of weather that we usually tend to avoid. Responses included: ‘I think it’s great for kids to play outdoors in all kinds of weather as long as they are kept warm etc.’ ‘I know [my child] loves nothing more than going outside in the rain with her raincoat, umbrella and gumboots and jumping in muddy puddles!’ ‘It may be a good idea to let the parent know what’s planned so we can send extra clothes or make sure they have their raincoat and umbrella for example.’ ‘...I definitely say yes to outdoor play in winter! I'm happy to pack an extra set of clothes in case [my child] gets wet and to pack a raincoat. At least they shouldn't get sunburnt in the rain!!!’ ‘I’m all for kids playing outdoors in different weather, they just have to be suitably clothed and have a spare set of dry clothes! Getting wet and stomping in mud puddles is the best fun – you only have to look at the smile on their faces.’ However, we also had some families who were not so keen, and who were initially concerned about their children’s health and wellbeing. It was essential that each family’s values and beliefs were respected, and at no time were children (or educators for that matter!) forced to play in the rain or wind. Nevertheless, as the weeks past, more and more children began arriving at the centre in their wet weather gear and many brought along spare clothes. The culture and attitude towards outdoor wet weather play had changed for many, and some families who initially were not so keen, began to reflect on their own personal experiences as children and remembered the joy that they themselves had received from playing outside in different types of weather. There is no bad weather, just different kinds of weather... In celebration of our first small win towards sustainable development and connecting our children with ‘real’ nature, our John Mewburn Child Care Centre held a ‘Mud Day’ this year. The children played outdoors in the mud and rain all day. Many children, families and educators participated in this special day of exploration, learning and fun. This day was a milestone for us. Only two months earlier many families and educators were uncertain about letting children walk in the rain, let alone encouraging them to wallow gleefully in the rain and mud! The culture of our centre has started to change. Excursions to the library or local shops used to be cancelled due to ‘bad weather’; these days we go on our excursion regardless of rain, hail or wind! For our children, this journey has opened up many possibilities for new experiences, joy and learning. Recently the children set out for a walk to the library while it was sunny, but were then caught in a sudden unexpected downpour of rain. The children all walked back to the centre sheltered under a large piece of tarp. They described this particular excursion as the “best library day ever!” We still have a long way to go on our journey of achieving true education for sustainability across all aspects of our program. We know that change is a slow process that requires reflection, collaboration, motivation and the capacity to question why we do what we do, and to see whether we can make real changes to our embedded practices. The next stage in our journey is a potential plan to take the children on walks to our local beach and nature reserves. The idea has been shared with educators, families and children and we are now working collaboratively with our stakeholders to make this happen in ways that will enhance children’s learning and experiences while ensuring their safety and wellbeing. References: Johansson, E. (2009). ‘The Preschool Child of Today? The World-Citizen of Tomorrow?’ International Journal of Early Childhood. 41(2), 79-95. United Nations. (1989). Convention on the Rights of the Child. Retrieved September 23, 2013, from: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/CRC.aspx reflections.issue53_Layout 1 11/11/13 2:26 PM Page 8
Reflections Magazine Issue 52
Reflections Magazine Issue 54