Big Fat Smile embraces #NatureForAll movement
Early childhood education and care (ECEC) provider, Big Fat Smile, has become the first ECEC partner in the Australian #NatureForAll network, part of the global #NatureForAll coalition.
The #NatureForAll movement was formally launched at the 2016 International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Conservation Congress in Hawaii. The current movement, organisers said, is driven by a growing IUCN-led global coalition of partners who represent a variety of sectors. It aims to build support and action for nature conservation among people from all walks of life by raising awareness and facilitating experiences and connections with the natural world.
In late 2018, Big Fat Smile joined with more than 25 organisations at the inaugural #NatureForAll Australia Forum, with the intention of providing a voice for children, families and communities. Specifically, Big Fat Smile said, they articulated their support for children’s rights to a safe, clean natural environment and promote increased access to nature. At the meeting, Big Fat Smile pledged to train 20 staff in nature play.
Dr Amanda Lloyd of Outdoor Connections lead three training sessions for staff working in FUN CLUB – the before and after school care division of Big Fat Smile.The educators participated in the sessions in a variety of weather conditions, learning more about scavenger hunt walks, story plays, shelter building, outdoor risk assessment, beach activities and nature-based games.
The course sought to increase the confidence of FUN CLUB staff to take children outdoors – whether that be an excursion to the beach, the Illawarra escarpment for bushwalking, school grounds or neighbourhood parks.
Big Fat Smile CEO, Jenni Hutchins, said the organisation recognised the emotional, social and physical benefits that children gain from spending time in nature, explaining that “increasingly parents are living in urban areas, are time-poor and are reliant on Outside School Hours Care services. We recognise the benefits from spending time in nature, whether it be an excursion to the beach during the vacation care (school holidays) or exploring bushy areas of school grounds and local parks.”
Training the FUN CLUB educators in the basic principles of outdoor learning and nature play, Ms Hutchins said, supported them to become role models for the children and families, adding “as role models, if our educators feel comfortable and enjoy nature, then our students are more likely to be relaxed and connect with nature. For us, the natural environment offers many healthy, safe and fun play-based learning opportunities that should be experienced during childhood.”
Big Fat Smile said that providing childhood experiences in nature is “good for children and our organisation” saying that the training program served as a counterpoint to balance the screen time that is omnipresent in their lives. Engaging with #NatureForAll, they said, was one of the ways to bring the organisation’s vision of enriching lives and minds of children and families in their communities to life.
For more information about the #NatureForAll movement, please visit their website.