More than 4,500 educators unite in NZ calling for full time nature based childcare
A petition signed by over 4,500 New Zealand educators, childcare centres and parents will be presented to the New Zealand Government this week, calling for a change in regulations and a new licence type, which would allow full time nature based childcare in the country, local news source TVNZ has reported.
Current New Zealand regulations, established in 2008, state that early childhood education and care (ECEC) services must have 2.5 square metres of indoor space per child, which poses a conundrum for those wishing to run outdoor programs based exclusively in nature.
The petition to change the regulations and create a new licence category was started by Little Kiwis Nature Play founder, Celia Hogan.
Ms Hogan shared her concerns about the impact of a lack of time spent engaged with nature, outlining the need for deep, immersive time engaged in outdoor learning, telling TVNZ “If you’re spending just a token amount of time each week, that’s not enough to develop those skills that they actually need to develop and grow into healthy, confident capable human beings.”
The NZ petition notes the growing popularity of nature based early learning programs around the world, and within New Zealand. Currently, Ms Hogan said, there are at least 40 outdoor early education programmes in the country and 10 of those are interested in offering full-time care.
Leo Smith, who founded the Plimmerton Kindergarten’s Bush Sprouts programme, told TVNZ that explorative play in nature, which allows children to focus on learning through play and challenging themselves is how children learn best.
The Plimmerton programme sees children ‘going bush’ once a week for around two months. “Out here they really are free to just do what works for them…They’ve all got different things that interest them and that’s actually their learning.” he told TVNZ.
Activities offered in the Plimmerton programme include rope climbing, using magnifying glasses, climbing up steep valleys to a hut and walking over a wobbly bridge made of fallen branches.
Speaking about the value of nature play programs, Ms Hogan spoke about the value of risk, and the danger of “this really cotton wool wrapping society” saying it was “not healthy” for children to have adults hovering over them and preventing them from learning through experimentation, trial and error.
New Zealand Education Minister, Chris Hipkins, told TVNZ that his department had received “a lot of feedback” on the topic, saying “it’s an area we can do better on.”
Mr Hipkins outlined that the NZ Government would look at different models of ECEC delivery, including an increase in outdoor learning opportunities.
For the original coverage of this piece as shared by TVNZ, please see here.