Blog by Fay Baudains and Trudi Bennett
There is a famous quote by Richard Louv, “We cannot protect something we do not love, we cannot love what we do not know, and we cannot know what we do not see. Or hear. Or sense.” (Louv, 2012) This sentiment rings true for us at Educated by Nature. Through all our programs, our main goal is to provide a space where children can fall in love with nature. The triangle of nature connection (connection to self, connection to others and connection to nature) also echoes this goal. Connecting to nature within a community is incredibly important. When stories are shared, heard, celebrated, and grown with curious questions, children become further inspired to look deeper in their explorations to find more and more fascinating things to share.
As part of the Educated by Nature’s consultancy, we have developed the Nature Connection Series – an innovative excursion series. It is designed to support schools to take learning outdoors – training teachers, engaging students, and providing practical, tailored examples of activities. During this program, we combine high energy, adrenalin-filled, community Wilderness Awareness Games with still, silent Sit Spots and time for individual journalling. This variation of energy allows children to connect deeply with nature in different ways. Through this deep connection, children form deep, strong bonds not only with their Sit Spot but the wider bushland.
Following is a ‘diary’ of the Nature Connection Series with Grovelands Primary School. Read how the students formed these deep bonds with Kendall Reserve and the resulting environmental action that developed.
Grovelands Primary School – Kendall Reserve with facilitator Fay Baudains
Week 1: Tuesday 19 October 2021
This first session was about orientation to the space, welcoming the program and exploration. After a brief introduction, students picked their name tags and divided into groups, one for each direction (North, South, East and West). We identified those directions in our space, and selected landmarks in those directions that we could use to orient ourselves for future activities. The space is heavily littered, so the session started with a rubbish collection. Whilst on the clean-up, students discovered a Bluetongue lizard. This produced a flurry of questions – “Where does it live?” “What does it eat?” “Can I pick it up?”
After our clean-up, we set a ‘Spy Skills’ challenge. Students had 30 seconds to look at a group of seeds, leaves and flowers collected from the space. Then, they set off in their groups to locate and collect a specimen. This activity produced lots of conversation. Students interacted with other groups asking where they had found certain pieces and sharing locations of items they had found. They had in-depth discussions, analyzing flowers that were close but not quite right. “Was that really pink or more purple?” You could hear the identification of items and frustration over the difficulty of finding a honky nut throughout the space. All groups were successful in eventually finding the items. We had further group discussion about the identification of the items. What role did it have in the life of the plant? Towards the close of the activity, we learned about the items scientific names.
As the rain turned from a drizzle to a downpour, groups were given supplies to draw the main landmarks of the space. Paths, buildings, fences and prominent trees were drawn and labelled. Groups then hid an object and wrote a set of steps to help another group find it. The groups swapped maps and instructions and then set off to find the treasures. Most were successful in finding the object, so we discussed what features and instructions were helpful for future activities. A very wet but very cheerful group of students then made their way back to school.
Week 2: Tuesday 26 October 2021
The students were excited to be back in the bushland space for the second of the Nature Connection series. We started by grounding ourselves back into the space, standing in a circle and focusing on our breath. With our eyes closed we smelled what scents we could detect in the bush after the rain. The students smelled gum leaves, damp wood, bark, and some perfume.
There was still a lot of rubbish in the space. In our direction groups, half the students took tongs and a garbage bag to collect rubbish. The other half went to collect 6 objects to play the Spy Skills game from last week. Afterward, we swapped tasks. Collected objects were given to another group to memorise and then find. Involving students in setting up gave them a sense of ownership around the game. It also created a great opportunity to talk about the value of flowers in the ecosystem and why we shouldn’t pick them.
A facilitator told a story about tracking a Dingo on a recent camping trip. This inspired the students for the next game. A student and teacher became a ‘Tailuman’, leaving a stick (tail) drag mark and dropped piles of porridge. The Tailuman wandered all over the place, sometimes down the sandy path and sometimes over leaf mulch in the bush. The students followed the trail and then hid with the Tailuman once they found it. After playing the game as a whole group, we split up to play in our smaller direction groups. Each Tailuman then wandered off in the direction of the group name. The students loved this variation of Hide and Seek Sardines. They discovered that Tailumans need to leave clear tracks and Trackers need to use good observation skills. Sometimes, this meant returning back to where they lost the trail to start again.
We ended the session by finding a special Sit Spot in our plant groups. This is a place we will return to each week, to sit in stillness, listen intently and observe closely. The students practiced listening for the quietest sound they could possibly hear. To shelter from the storm we returned to school. We mapped what we remembered from the Sit Spot, and placed it on our larger group maps.
Week 3: Tuesday 1 November 2021
Today’s session was about using our senses to observe and track. While half the group did their rubbish collection (another 7 bags full today), the remaining group split into pairs for a blindfold challenge. The non-blindfolded child would select a nearby tree and guide the blindfolded child there. The blindfolded child then felt the tree for any distinguishing features, before being led back to the start. When the blindfold was removed the child had to find their way back to the tree. We swapped groups so that everyone had a turn, enjoying the feeling of being a little unsure of our surroundings. When blindfolded, we had to trust our partner and our sense of touch. As Mila said, “This isn’t my tree, I’m sure it was smoother.”
We then gathered as a whole group and switched our focus to our sense of hearing. We discussed the different types of bird calls. Grabbing our journals, we went into our plant groups for a Sit Spot to identify a bird call to stalk. We practiced our deer walking and then turned off our voices and followed the calls. Two groups converged on an unknown blue bird. They drew sketches and labeled identifying markers. Once the first bird was spotted the whole space opened up. Students discovered nests, bee hives, rainbow lorikeets, red headed parrots and insects. We even discovered that the seeds inside the woody pear pods were mini helicopters! We spent some time throwing them and watching them spin.
After a long time stalking, the groups went into their Sit Spots. We were amazed that this week there were so many birds. After a break for a snack and to share stories of our bird stalking and Sit Spots, we switched on our ‘bird eyes’ and played the game Eagle Eye. We could have played this game for the rest of the day. We left the students with a challenge for the week – tune into the bird calls in their area and continue to find information about the birds they found.
Week 4: Tuesday 9 November 2021
After a glass-focused litter collection, we discussed our mystery blue bird from last week. What elements did we not agree on and how could we get better information? We used our new knowledge of descriptive drawing as we divided into plant groups and set out to identify and record the various aspects of our plants. We discovered that some plants looked different from when we started our series and some were tricky to find. Our next project was to create bird hides so we could more carefully watch the birds in our space. We stacked branches, cleared nooks and created hiding spaces so we could sit quietly and cosily at our Sit Spot. We finished with making our new hides and sharing stories of the treasures we found while we were building.
Week 5: Tuesday 16 November 2021
The students practiced the Core Routine of Animal Forms this week. They honed their hearing in a group Sit Spot, tracking swarms of bees and far away birds. We then practiced our Owl Eyes before moving to explore the space. A scavenger hunt unearthed nature treasures such as beehives, nests with eggs and beautifully coloured flowers all recorded in their journals. We made additions to hides and played Wilderness Awareness Games. The teacher commented that no one wanted to miss a Tuesday. She said although they always came back to class tired, students were always focused and eager to keep learning.
Week 6: Tuesday 23 November 2021
Today the students got a small taste of the hectic life of a bird. We started with a Sit Spot. We observed a young Pink and Grey Galah sleeping in a tree and noisy Rainbow Lorikeets raining leaf matter on us. Our game then put us far into the world of the birds. From finding food, protecting our nests from ravens, teaming up with other birds to fight off an eagle and the unfortunate end of life from a feral cat. The students were deeply invested in the experience. Their teachers, (the ravens) found new and exciting ways to interact with them. The calls of Djitti Djitti echoed off the surrounding buildings with peals of laughter.
We took a trip to an abandoned mulberry tree to scavenge for some morning tea then played Eagle Eye to finish up. Words like fun, exciting, sweaty and tired was the feedback at the end of an exciting day.
Week 7: Tuesday 30 November 2021
Today the students at Groveland Primary School explored how the space had changed in the last 6 weeks. What plants were blooming and which had died? Students updated their maps using their new knowledge of the space. New clues helped to identify birds by their gumnut eating habits. We also explored a grass space that had been out of bounds, but had since been mowed. They employed stealth movement techniques and even had a dance party in a cubby space. At the end, they couldn’t believe that our time was nearly over. They’ve really become attached to the space.
Week 8: Tuesday 7 December 2021
We spent our final day playing all the games that we’d learnt. We discussed how the space had transformed. It was not only from our care, but that the neighbourhood seemed to have more respect for the space. Less rubbish was being dumped. We also planned how to let the school know how much rubbish was blowing into the space from lunchtime snacks. The students said goodbye to their Sit Spots and the whole class joined in for a dance party to say thank you. They promised to keep using the space and shared gratitude for what they’d learnt and how they felt.
We are grateful for our project partner WA Parks with the financial support of the Australian Gas Infrastructure Group. Without their funding, these schools and their students would not have been able to access support and mentoring to utilise their nearby nature spaces. For us at Educated by Nature, we have been able to widen our reach, bringing Nature Connection programs to schools that may have been otherwise unable to afford them.
If you would like to find out how your students could be involved in a similar Nature Connection Series at a bushland space local to your school, please email as at email@example.com to discover more about consultation opportunities.