Nature School takes learning outdoors for children

Investigating what happens when water, food colouring and oil are mixed is Max Smith, of Anderson...
Investigating what happens when water, food colouring and oil are mixed is Max Smith, of Anderson’s Bay School, at Nature School Dunedin alongside co-founders Geoff Markby and Lizzie Potter yesterday. PHOTO: GREGOR RICHARDSON
Most classrooms have four walls and a whiteboard, but this Dunedin classroom features a fire pit and a mud pool.

Nature School Dunedin has been giving children a space to learn outdoor skills for more than a year.

Co-founder Lizzie Potter said the school exposed primary school children to the world in a way that was not possible in a classroom.

Children were allowed to explore the outdoors and learnt how to take calculated risks, such as when fire-making or learning knife skills.

Being exposed to that type of learning built a practicality in children that continued through to later life, she said.

The school began in July last year and has been growing since.

Classes of about 12 pupils attend the school once a week for the length of a term.

It is based at a property in Waitati, but lessons take place all over the Dunedin area.

A lot of children started off unsure about some of the activities, such as the waterslide, but quickly came to enjoy it, Mrs Potter said.

‘‘We see such a change in these kids.’’

There was no set plan for the day and children could explore whatever activities they felt like, she said.

That could be creating sculptures out of mud, foraging for food or whittling wood.

Everything was guided by adults, but the children had the freedom to pursue what they wanted to explore.

Not everything worked out, but that was a good thing as it taught the children about failure.

The result was a group of children who knew how to handle risks, she said.

Co-founder Geoff Markby said sensory input was ‘‘so important’’ for growing children

Children loved being able to touch and smell things in the outdoors and many of the pupils felt ‘‘at peace’’ while at the school, he said.

‘‘Kids just don’t get the chance to play in the mud.’’

Anderson’s Bay School pupil Max Smith (8) said he loved the mud.

He did not have access to big trees at home and it was a lot of fun getting to play in nature, he said.

 

 

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