I felt really inspired after watching the NaturePlay film that we hosted here in Christchurch and we had great feedback along the same lines. One of the parents who came along said the next day she removed her child from their preschool after watching the film! I thought that was a very powerful message in itself. Not just for parents to advocate for their children at the centres they attend, but it also sends a strong message to centres to make sure they have a well rounded programme that incorporates time in nature.
One challenge I hear from centres when it comes to visiting parks and reserves is that it can be really tricky with the ratios. Yes – ratios can be very tricky indeed. But they can also be a bit of a cover up for another challenge.
From my observations so far I see that ratios become more of a challenge if the teacher/teachers don’t feel confident in a natural environment with children that aren’t their own. that’s not to say the teachers don’t get out into nature in their own time or with their own children, its the addition of other peoples children that can sometimes put it in the too hard basket. There are definitely other reasons but I have observed this twice in the past week so I wanted to talk about it a little.
So how do we build the confidence to take groups into nature with other peoples children? Here are 5 areas you could start with:
- Good systems and processes that have been thought out in advance. This could be roles and responsibilities, session or excursion plans or parent helper expectations
- Risk management assessments carried out to help identify the possible risks for that site and travelling there. This includes the actions to be taken to remove or minimise the risks
- Visit the site a couple of times before your first session and have a thorough walk around and role play what risks exist where and how you could deal with it
- Take someone with some experience on your first couple of sessions to help you feel more comfortable and to build your confidence
- Trust in your skills that you have acquired keeping children safe in your centre
The summary of those 5 ideas is planning and support. The more planning that goes into the initial set-up of a nature programme the more comfortable people will be. The less planning there is, the less certainty and the more anxiety it can create, especially if one of the teachers is new to nature programmes.
Involving other more experiences people is a wonderful way to support someone who is wanting to develop their skills on nature excursions. Some people can cope with being thrown in the deep end but honestly I don’t think its worth it when someones confidence is on the line.
So take it slow, plan and support each other to build confidence in yourself and your programme.
Good advice I agree whole heartedly. I recently took a group out on a day when the weather was rather inclement. Unfortunately both of my parent helps were unsure and wanted us to pull the plug, however I negotiated and changed the venue making it a shorter trip , less distance for the children to walk and both parents finally agreed. This trip was great and the kids and teachers loved it however one of the mothers at the end was still feeling it was not ideal. I had previously told all our families that we would go rain hail or shine! However this parent still didnt agree with our reasoning that children will not get cold and that they had adequate clothing. I must say that on reflection of this I did re-evaluate my planning, preparation and paperwork to explain to our whanau more fully and I have improved the signage for parents so that they fully understood and we also like to talk to them face to face and explain more fully the activities that we were doing and why! These changes have helped our families to understand and approve of what and why we are doing these wonderful Forest trips and they then fully agreed with the terms. Communication is the key I feel!!
Hi Rowena! Thank you! And that is a really great reflection. I think it can definitely be a challenge when there are different people coming on different sessions so I love how you are focusing on the communication side of things and getting your whanau on the same page. When a team is confident with their philosophy and beliefs, like yours, it makes it easier to have those conversations too. I have definitely found the same and have a parent help ‘one pager’ where we invite parents to read it before they come on our sessions.
Well written Little Kiwis! All I can add is that it’s not hard unless you let it be! We are utilizing some unused land at the moment and really enjoying the freedom to run around in long grass and challenge everyone’s knowledge, teachers and children alike. One strategy I have found useful with a bigger group is to regroup from time to time to make sure we are together and to talk about what we have seen and what exciting things we can go looking for next. Also at the beginning of the trip, I have a wee korero or chat with children about what we are doing and ask only that they listen.