Working Towards a Nature Pedagogy Through Play

As early childhood educators, we have an essential role in fostering children’s connectedness to the natural world, their ability to live sustainably, and their understanding and respect for diverse cultures.

Research has shown that when children spend time in nature, they benefit both physically and mentally. They develop sharper sensory awareness, a stronger immune system, improved emotional wellbeing, and enhanced cognitive abilities. Therefore, it becomes necessary for us as educators to use the natural environment as our inspiration and to encourage children to explore with curiosity, creativity, and wonder.

According to Claire Warden, who pioneered the concept of Nature Pedagogy: “Children need to go outside every single day, even if it is just for a little bit. They need to get their hands in the soil, feel the texture of a leaf, hold insects, and learn about the patterns of the natural world”. As educators, we must embrace ecological choices and use nature as not only a location, but a resource, and context for learning.

In our Early Learning and Kindergarten setting we have been working towards weekly Nature Play sessions off site. By doing so, we enable children to develop a deeper connection with nature and instil a sense of awe and respect for the natural world.

When you enter an Early Learning classroom at Grammar you will notice that the outdoors has made its way indoors. Children are surrounded by plants and can play with natural materials, as loose parts and to look more closely at natural objects. They have access to books and pictures that depict the flora and fauna of the world around them, and they are creating with materials that might otherwise have ended up as landfill.

Additionally, educators incorporate sustainability into our Units of Inquiry, teaching the children about the value of conserving resources and reducing waste. Our children learn about sustainable practices such as water conservation, composting, and using recycled materials. These activities provide opportunities for children to connect with nature and develop an understanding of the interdependence between society and the environment.

Integrating Nature Pedagogy into an early childhood setting has numerous benefits for children’s overall development. By adopting a Nature Pedagogy approach, educators can help children to develop a connection with and love for the natural world while at the same time learning to appreciate the customs and traditions of Indigenous peoples. Ultimately, we hope that our Early Learning students will gain the ability to live sustainably, with a deep respect for the environment and awareness of how their everyday choices can impact the world around them.

As educators, it is our responsibility to create a learning environment that instils values of respect, understanding, and sustainability. By working towards these goals, we can create a better future for ourselves, our children, and future generations.

Claire Warden asks us to consider the question: “What kind of planet will we leave for our children?” Will it be one where they will look back at the actions we take and feel proud of the wise choices of their ancestors? And in turn asks us to consider “What kind of children will we leave for the planet?” How will we help them make wise choices in their lifetimes as they find themselves in an increasingly technological world?

Written by Georgia Gregg – Learning Area Leader Early Childhood