When Trudi and I started Educated by Nature, one of our main goals was to create environments and experiences where children could find opportunities for building resilience. We found, through our experiences as teachers, we had seen the rapid decline in resilience, self-efficacy and awareness in children of all ages in our communities.
Today, more than ever, our children need to be developing the skills to support resilience development. So, we feel very strongly that children build ‘Resilience through Connection’. As such we develop all of our programs, especially for KIN Village, with resilience in the forefront of our minds.
“Resilience is the process of continual development of personal competence, while navigating & negotiating with available resources, in the face of adversity.” http://www.theresiliencedoughnut.com.au/about/about-the-resilience-doughnut/
We know that there are many aspects to building resilience and we look towards our guide and mentor, Maggie Dent. Her book,10 Resilience Building Blocks for Children 0-12, encourages:
- Positive healthy pregnancy
- Good Nutrition
- Safe, nurturing care within the circle of family
- Plenty of play
- Build Life Skills
- Meaningful Involvement with Positive Adults
- Clear boundaries
- Absence of stress
- Self Mastery
- Strengthen the Spirit
Maggie Dent 2006 ©
In a single day program it’s difficult to provide for each of these building blocks. The complete set of blocks make up a whole kit bag of opportunities that require a village approach to accomplish. However we feel that we can play a big part in providing micro-moments that offer the child a supportive environment to grow and develop through activities and experiences at each of our programs. We take our role in children’s lives very seriously.
Plenty of Play
Kids (and adults) learn through play. They develop understanding, relationships, connection and resilience through play. PLAY is so important. Play therefore, is a major key to all of our programs. As a result, it is not unusual to hear that a child’s favourite part of the day was ‘hanging out, building cubbies and playing’. Children require time and space to play and we often overlook this need in our over-scheduled lives.
Building Life Skills
Our KIN Village Senior programs have children outdoors for 7 hours. We don’t use a building. Thus don’t have the refuge of indoors (or power points!). So, children have an opportunity to explore, play with and build life skills. Participants are involved with morning tea and lunch preparation, cutting fruit, vegetables, lighting a fire to cook on (and to keep us warm), cooking, serving and then cleaning up after a community meal. The children also form groups in the morning that they spend time with at different points throughout the day and are responsible for different areas of the space (tools, cubbies, rubbish, fire) and build ownership over their space and their group’s tasks.
“After watching Connor confidently pull together the ingredients of the solar apple cake, I have expanded his kitchen duties to include making the whole salad – cutting up the tomato, carrot, cheese and all. The programs teach kids, but more importantly teach parents (like me) to loosen up a little and let our kids explore!” Martine Hawkins (Mother of KIN Junior participant).
We encourage you to give your child roles within the family home. Ways of achieving this could be cooking a meal, preparing breakfast, taking the rubbish out, or helping with household jobs! These experiences teach personal responsibility, build life skills and also include the child as a important member of the family community.
Meaningful Involvement with Positive Adults
It takes a village to raise a child. Parents cannot possibly take on every role a child needs them to provide. We need to look to our wider community to provide mentors, guides and companions. At Educated by Nature we pride ourselves on our 7:1 ratio at our programs, providing more opportunities for one on one connection and mentoring. We also ensure that our facilitators are a good mix of ages and gender to allow opportunity for a variety of role modelling opportunities.
“The KIN groups are a wonderful reminder in a hectic world to slow down and just spend time exploring and enjoying nature. The Educated by Nature team have such a thoughtful, open way of interacting, allowing the kids to take the lead – helping them find their own path, challenges and solutions.” Rachel Forbes.
Being engaged with positive, intentional relationships and connections has been shown to build resilience in children and young people and can sustain adults through inevitable difficulties. These positive relationships in various contexts contribute to self-esteem, self-efficacy and an awareness of resources (Armstrong, Birnie-Lefcovitch, & Ungar, 2005).
Children need to know where the boundaries are and how far they can go. This helps them to feel safe and build resilience. Behaviour that is often labelled as ‘bad’ or ‘naughty’ is most often an example of a child pushing at those boundaries to test them. When this happens, the adults in their life need to hold those boundaries strong. At KIN Village, the children are involved in developing and setting the rules at the start of the day. Subsequently, they have ownership over following those rules. As a result, we often find they support each other with remembering the guidelines for the day.
In January of 2015, Trudi wrote this post about her personal journey towards building resilience and made this remark…’In Educated by Nature programs we aim to help families enter the prickly spaces, to challenge themselves, building resilience and learn within nature. We situate ourselves at the edge of the manicured grass, in amongst the dirt and dry leaves, crawl into scratchy bushes, climb up high and step into the swamp to challenge, take risks, face discomfort and then wash up, eat, sing and relieve adversity allowing resilience to emerge and bloom in the company of a mentor.’ Visit www.educatedbynature.com/programs for a list of all the places your children can join an Educated by Nature event and work on some of these important skills!