Get to know your AOs: Rebecca Kidd
This month get to know Bec, a Hub manager from northern NSW and hear about her visits to forest kindergartens in Denmark.
Relieving Hub Manager Gumbaynggirr Hub/North Coast NSW
Where are you based?
Newcastle. Within the hub we have offices in Lismore, Forster, Dubbo, Tamworth, Armidale and Coffs Harbour.
Could you give an example of an inspiring bush kindy practice or program that you’ve seen in a service?
I have recently had the opportunity to attend the Nature Explorers program at Pottsville Community Preschool in Pottsville NSW. The service has been implementing the program for four years and has embedded all practices. The whole experience for Nature Explorers is well planned and thought out and provides the children who attend the service a quality community interaction which not only supports children’s awareness of nature but their awareness of sustainability practices through collecting rubbish on the way for Landcare, maintaining animal environments and being in-tune with the fauna and natural habitats of the area. The children have access to a range of areas including the beach, base camp other community spaces.
Are there any unique issues you think rural and remote services experience, and if so, how have you seen them overcome them?
Many rural and remote services are stand alone in their community with no other local services to network with. This can limit professional networking. A way to overcome this is professional networking and linking services with each other within the hub and within metro areas.
Rural and remote services have also faced much adversity within the last 2 years from floods, fire, drought and the pandemic. The biggest thing I have noticed whilst engaging with services in these areas is their resilience and support of community. In many instances the early childhood service is the main support for families. Educators within these services can be exposed to extreme family hardship and at times may be the only community support a family has. I have seen services seek training in family support and recognising trauma to provide them with additional skills to support families in crisis.
In 2004 and 2018 you traveled to Denmark and got the chance to visit some of their kindergartens, what were some of the different and interesting practices you noticed compared to services in NSW?
One of the standout things I noticed was the community and family support of forest schools, nature schools and forest excursions. Families are made aware of the safe risk-taking challenges their children will engage in and actively support the schools through a strong understanding of the philosophy and the activities which the children will participate in, for example tree climbing, and a true farm to plate experience. For instance children get involved in farming animals and growing produce, and exploring nature from the highest heights. The forest schools are actively supported through local councils with scout type halls built in the forest to provide an all-weather shelter and access to cooking facilities for educators and children.
The other major difference is the children’s confidence to explore their environment and learn how to manage risk and the educator's confidence in their ability. There are no hard boundaries in many nature kindergartens, children are made aware of invisible boundaries and learn about these from the moment they start kindergarten, older children help the younger children to adhere to these in the forest. The depth of pedagogy and curriculum is well thought out and rationalised. Services support each other through peer groups and ensure that quality is provided in both learning environments and the curriculum.