Nature Schools Are Growing In Popularity!

By Imogen Brennan

At a council reserve on the New South Wales mid-north coast, children attend a school where they spend their entire day in the wild.

Key Points:

  • In parts of Europe, nature schools are common and supported by local councils
  • Nature school learning is child-led, and students are free to take risks
  • A report found a lack of outdoor learning is affecting children’s empathy and creativity

A recent report by Plymouth University found a lack of outdoor learning is creating an urgent social problem in children, affecting their empathy, creativity, and innovation.

To combat this, a growing number of parents in the UK and Europe are sending their children to “nature schools”, but the movement is in its infancy in Australia.

At The Nature School in Port Macquarie there is no set schedule, and the students choose when they eat, play, read and take time out.

The children, aged between three and six, roam through the bush, play music, make bush crafts and put up tents.

They attend once or twice a week and are cared for by three people called “educators”.

Lloyd Godson, a marine scientist and former professional adventurer, co-founded The Nature School last year after he and his friends researched the nature pedagogy movement in Europe and the UK.

“We’ve had children that come here and the parents have said ‘good luck, they haven’t really gone too well in the classroom setting, they’re going to be a handful’,” he said.

“They pass them over and run, but [the children have] thrived here.

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“If you want to run you can, or if you want to read a book in the shade.”

The outdoor education movement centres around building character.

The learning is child-led, and the students are free to take risks.

“We have had children that have taken a fall out of a tree, we’ve had children who have rolled down small hills, bumped their heads and who have gone home with bruises,” Mr Lloyd said.

“In general, yes, there are a lot of potential hazards here with the open water for example, but we make sure that the children are very aware that they don’t go to the water without an educator.”

‘Nature pedagogy’ common in Europe

00008037400-3x2-700x467PHOTO: At The Nature School in Port Macquarie there is no set schedule. (ABC: Imogen Brennan)

“We’ve had children that come here and the parents have said ‘good luck, they haven’t really gone too well in the classroom setting, they’re going to be a handful’,” he said.

“They pass them over and run, but [the children have] thrived here.

“If you want to run you can, or if you want to read a book in the shade.”

The outdoor education movement centres around building character.

The learning is child-led, and the students are free to take risks.

“We have had children that have taken a fall out of a tree, we’ve had children who have rolled down small hills, bumped their heads and who have gone home with bruises,” Mr Lloyd said.

“In general, yes, there are a lot of potential hazards here with the open water for example, but we make sure that the children are very aware that they don’t go to the water without an educator.”

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Source: ABC

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