At Blaxland Preschool Kindergarten the kids learn about Indigenous culture and develop an appreciation of the natural environment at bush preschool.
The program was first introduced in 2015, where the kids would play at Thomas Park across the road from the preschool, but it didn’t take long to evolve into a fortnightly excursion to a bushland location at Mt Riverview.
Aboriginal Elders share their culture with the preschoolers, and last week Darug Elder Uncle Lex Dadd had the kids singing and dancing and using natural materials to create paint for handprints on rocks and trees.
“I talk to the kids and show them traditional tools. We get everything out of the bush and look after the bush. We are sharing songs about culture and encouraging kids to drink water,” Uncle Lex said.
Preschool director Deirdre Wilde said several years ago staff had read articles about the forest kindergartens of Scandinavia and were so inspired by this movement, they began to explore how the principles of nature education could be applied in the Blue Mountains.
“We wanted our preschoolers to have the opportunity for uninterrupted time outdoors, in all weather and exploring a range of bush spaces,” she said.
“The bush serves as a multi-sensory learning environment that awakens the child’s imagination and allows them to just be. The benefits of nature play are broad and across all areas of the child’s development and social learning, and include physical, social and emotional wellbeing and development.
“It gives the children the time, skills and abilities to problem solve, risk take, make decisions, collaborate with others, follow their interests and develop a love and appreciation of their natural world.”
The marriage of nature pedagogy and Indigenous culture works well in bush preschool.
“As we explore nature we accept and integrate the importance of our First Peoples and their relationship with their land. For us it is the Darug and Gundungarra people,” Ms Wilde said.
“From our greeting, ‘Warami’ to the children and families, and developing our own acknowledgement of country with the children, we begin to demonstrate our connections.
“We talk about the children being custodians of the land. How will they look after the environment?”
The kids have learned about drought firsthand from the nearby dry creek. There are also plans to hold a fundraising barbecue breakfast and book swap, with the money raised to be split between the Indigenous Literacy Foundation and drought-stricken farmers.