As with many projects the world over, 2020’s COVID crisis changed much in the Nature Kindergarten space. Early childhood services who were moving ahead with exciting plans for the future found themselves having to work out how to teach very young children remotely instead. Many Bush and Nature Kinder programs were put on hold during Victoria’s second wave. Priorities changed by necessity.
Despite the obstacles, OV and Early Childhood Outdoor Learning Network’s Nature Kindergarten Facilitation project continues apace.
Wellington Shire Council in particular has embraced the opportunity to build the health, wellbeing, learning and development of young children in the region through outdoor programs. Through the Wellington Early Years Network, Council organised information sessions for early childhood services and in 2021, will pool funds to enable Nature Kinder training opportunities for both council staff and early childhood teachers/educators in the region. Facilitator Rose Major will work alongside ECO Learning Network trainers to support the development of off-site outdoor programs and outdoor play in Wellington Shire in a range of ways in 2021.
In metropolitan Melbourne, lengthy COVID restrictions meant other organisations were unable to develop such a clear project involvement during the year but will continue their involvement in 2021. Nature/Bush Kinder training and associated support will be offered to organisations within the areas of Hume, Melton and other under-represented areas in the north and west where funds and time allow and where providers are ready to take the leap into outdoor learning.
The project will also start to look further afield during 2021, drawing in participants from other areas. And when early childhood services are once again able to accept visitors, Rose is looking forward to many more opportunities to get out and about to support off-site outdoor programs as they develop.