10 Takeaways from the Nature Pedagogy Conference 2017

Author: Lara Jennings   Date Posted: 12 March 2017 

Well, it seems my body clock has decided 4:30am is a great time to wake up after being up at that time for the last two days to get to Lilydale for Niki Buchan's Natural Learning Nature Pedagogy Conference! I'm not all that impressed with my body clock for that, but at least I get some time to myself to write my 10 takeaways for this wonderful event that I will definitely be back for next year! In no particular order:

1. Children need freedom & trust

Thanks to Luke Addison from Riverside Cottage Nursery for this little gem! We need to let go of the bubble wrap and this idea that children need us there all the time to keep them safe. They can actually do a great job at keeping themselves safe! When we trust chidren to do the right thing, then they will! And if they don't, then they will at least learn from it and that is all we can ask for! 

2. Children need be in nature to love nature

One of the biggest threats to our planet is us. Plain and simple. We destroy far too much of it for our own personal gain. When children spend time in nature, they develop a spiritual connection to it. We see it all the time with bush therapy. The spaces we go feel like home. Big thanks to Erin Kenny from Cedersong Nature School for confirming this. Erin made a great point; when these children who develop spiritual connections to nataure grow up, their desire to preserve nature will be what keeps our planet beautiful and alive. 

3. Celebrate Risk

Such a perfect title for Niki's presentation to end the conference. Risk is learning! Risk is providing children with an opportunity have a powerful experience of learning and success. Yes we do need to be concious of hazards, but we really need to look at the benefit of the experiences we provide children from a learning and development perspective. The benefits for children who are allowed to take measured risks far outway the likelihood of injury. I personally LOVE seeing the children at bush therapy climb trees! Because I know how valuable that experience is for them.

4. Stories are our society's backbone

John Marsden, where do I start! Big love to you for all your wonderful insights and very funny stories! But the message that I really took away from hearing you is that children NEED stories! They need to hear them, they need to develop the ability to tell them, but most importantly, they need to have the experiences that give them good stories to tell! So thank you for bringing that to my attention. (I feel a workshop in the making!)

5. Primary schools can do a child-led curriculum too

Barb from Upper Sturt Primary School is now one of my new favourite people because she has proven that the formal education is not a lost cause. It CAN be done! Get the right people, in the right places to make that change happen and it will! AND for those of you worried about NAPLAN results, well, Barb has the results that prove a child-led curriculum is effective! Can I get a big HELL YEAH for that!!!!

6. Loose Parts are things with purpose 

I have a list on my phone that has about 20 takeaways from Noel Jensen's workshop. But I think the biggest thing that I really thought about afterwards was that anything can be a loose part - even a chicken!! But what it really important to think about is what is the reason for these things to be there? What do you want the children to achieve from using them? However, just because you have an idea in mind of what you want them to do, that doesn't mean it has to be done that way! Children need to be able to decide what they do with them for themselves. (PS - check out his amazing wares at Keeping It Simply Smart)

7. Community is key

Margaret Gleeson spoke about transition and the key point for children to have this work well is to have strong connections with the community. I LOVED her idea of having preschool children create a Big School Book. I would love to see more of this. Her workshop also made me think why don't the prep teachers visit kinders and spend time there?? That would be so beneficial for everyone! This needs to happen! (Research project perhaps???)

8. We are STEM Detectives 

Bronwyn Con's workshop was all about STEM. As an ex Science teacher myself I do know that STEM is all around around us. I loved her message about how we as educators need to be able to detect, observe & analyise the STEM learning that the children do everyday. And the best place to see STEM in action is OUTSIDE! So get out there and get your STEM goggles on! You can check out her site here. (PS - we smashed out sink or float challenge! Our raft was a winner!)

9. Children need time

Too many days in a child's life are scheduled. Children need big blocks of time to be able to just be. If children aren't given the time to fully engage in their play, to develop their ideas, to explore in their own way, then they don't get the full benefits from it. Erin from Cedersong Nature School spoke about a sense of timelessness for children when they are in nature and playing. That is when the magic happens.


I don't think there would be anyone out there who could deny this. When children play in nature they are happy, they are learning, they are achieving developmental milestones. They are developing socially, emotionally, cognitively, physically and spiritually. The whole package. 

We do hope that Niki does this again next year! Let her know you want it too by getting in touch with her here




Interested in working with nature in your educational setting? 

Our clay incursion is great starting point! We will bring our natural resources to you, working your staff and children and get the ball rolling for incorporating nature into your curiculum. And you get to keep all the resources too!

Call us on 1800 62 72 23 for more info.


Comments (1)

Excellent insights

By: on 24 March 2017
Your summing up is excellently and concise, one of the best conferences I've been to, hope it is an annual event

Leave a comment

Comments have to be approved before showing up