Spotlight – KU Ourimbah

We spoke to KU Ourimbah, the ‘Forest School’, located on the NSW Central Coast, about what makes their service ‘Excellent’.

Services adopt a range of strategies and concepts to structure early childhood education programs, while ensuring their ideas work in accordance with the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF).

KU Ourimbah Preschool and Children’s Centre takes an approach that includes integrating the service with the environment, by making best use of the surrounding bush.

Based on the Ourimbah campus of Newcastle University, educators created a ‘Forest Kindergarten’ to provide opportunities for children to explore the university’s wetlands and bush areas.

Centre Director Roseanne Pugh said the curriculum children experience is for some part of the day, outside in a “wild” space.

“In our case this is a rainforest but in the Australian context it could be described as place-based education in a Bush Program,” said Ms Pugh.

“Children begin their thinking outside the built environment, in a space that affords natural features that are integrated into physical, social and cognitive domains of learning. This thinking is then translated to the indoor environment for further investigation and extension,” she added.

A typical day involves freedom for the children to play with ideas, test things out, manipulate objects, talk at length with others, construct and deconstruct, participate in imaginative play and solve problems together within a strongly predictable routine and learning environment, reflecting the natural setting.

Ms Pugh has noticed children are most highly motivated by activities that use their imaginations.

“The children often overwhelmingly vote for going on walks or being in the forest. Parents tell us that children count the days down until it’s their turn.

“They transfer what they have learnt into behaviours in their homes, like recycling, building frog ponds, planting vegetables, making stick tee-pees, going bush-walking and making natural art from things they have found,” she said.

KU Ourimbah attribute their ‘Excellent’ ACECQA rating, received in 2016, to their collaborative partnerships and use of natural surroundings to enhance children’s learning and growth.

“The area’s beautiful local environment including wetlands, bush areas and forests, have been particularly beneficial for children who have otherwise limited access to the outdoors,” Ms Pugh said.

“Connection with community has also been useful for extending learning opportunities.”

Ms Pugh said she believes the best thing about being an early childhood educator is the ability to see the world through children’s eyes.

“We value the opportunity to view the world through the perspectives of children who speak and listen in ways we have often forgotten,” she said. “Be ready to always learn from their refreshing approaches to create meaning out of every experience.

Category:  December 2017,

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