The Nature Connection Series is an innovative excursion series from Educated by Nature. It is designed to support schools to take learning outdoors - training teachers, engaging students, and providing practical, tailored examples of activities.
The program trains young people in Core Routines that create strong bonds with a specific natural space and develop life skills that promote mental and physical wellbeing. The series follows a pattern of Gratitude, Wilderness Awareness Games, Wandering Challenges, Sit Spots, Journaling and Sharing Stories with a focus on either local birds or flora. The development of this program was inspired by the Art of Mentoring work through the 8 Shields Institute.
Students explore the natural space in small groups to discover new elements in the environment while working on developing their own individual level of comfort and connection. The program also provides opportunities to bring learning back into the classroom to create engaging projects in Biological Sciences, HASS and other integrated curriculum areas.
The Nature Connection Series improves Connection to Self, deepens Connection to Nature and enhances Connection to Community.
Our Nature Connection Series can run across 4, 6 or 8 weeks. The excursions can be conducted at either one of our Educated by Nature locations or at a local bushland or park near your school. The program can be adapted to different age groups from years PK to 12.
The aims of the project are to:
Provide more opportunities for young people to learn within nature
Develop a positive affinity for nature, valuing all parts of the ecosystem
Feel increasingly more comfortable within nature and feel a sense of being part of nature
Develop acute awareness and observation skills
Foster curiosity and create excitement around mysteries in nature
Use questioning techniques and a desire to know more to follow a mystery
Use creative and critical thinking skills to reflect on learning
Develop core routines to support nature connection after the program as a life skill to support mental health.
This Nature Connection Series is more than simply an experience for students, it's an opportunity for rich, in the moment Professional Development for the teachers and support staff who attend the program. The series has been developed from a foundation of mentoring that extends to the adults in the sessions as well. Our Facilitators work closely with the accompanying Teachers to help them see the potential of Nature Pedagogy and Outdoor Learning beyond the excursion series, to identify learning possibilities that reach beyond the individual sessions themselves and connect with curriculum and content being explored back in the classroom.
Too often community education programs fail to evaluate programs rigorously. As a part of our commitment to thorough evaluation we commissioned the Sheridan Institute of Higher Education to conduct an independent evaluation on the impact of the Nature Connection Series. In partnership with WA Parks Foundation, with generous funding from the Australian Gas and Infrastructure Group, we spent 8 weeks working with four low SES metropolitan schools. The results confirm - our programs work.
Surveys completed by teachers before and after the program indicate that while 60% of teachers involved in the study had hardly ever taught classes outdoors before the Nature Connection experience, 50% were teaching two to three classes outdoors per week by the end of the Nature Connection project. Furthermore, survey data showed that after completing the Nature Connection Series program, teachers felt more confident to teach outdoors, to develop student creative and critical thinking skills, to develop student collaboration skills, to develop student voice and agency, to develop student resilience, to teach science, to know the local natural environment, to use the local environment as a resource for teaching, to develop engaging learning activities, and to encourage student reflection and meta-cognition.
Student development was also phenomenal. Students became more resilient because of their involvement with the Nature Connection program. In the post-project significantly more (10.05% and 13.50% more) students selected ‘I don’t give up when things get difficult.’ and ‘I am a good problem solver.” than in the pre-project survey. Student knowledge about nature increased. In the post-survey, 23.70% more of the students strongly agreed they know the local birds and plant life in their community than in the pre-survey. Only 9% of the students indicated they do not know the name of some local parks in their area, compared to 23% in the pre-survey.
Read the full report by clicking the button below.