Our CROWN Programme (Children Reconnecting Outdoors with Nature)
Our CROWN – Children Reconnecting Outdoors with Nature Programme was inspired by the ‘forest schools/kindergarten’ phenomenon that originated in Europe. It is based on our understanding, observations and research that children are facing increasingly limited opportunities to explore natural environments, a reduction in exposure to challenging play equipment and a decrease in the time available to develop appropriate risk taking strategies. Children are spending increasing amounts of time indoors and on screens and missing out on the opportunity to undertake challenges and connect with nature. Recent research has indicated that direct exposure to nature is essential for healthy childhood development and for the physical and emotional health of both children and adults. At Wondernauts we are passionate about providing children with opportunities every day to explore nature.
CROWN – Infants – Ruakura
Infants have committed to regular walks around the campus right on our doorstep. Sometimes these walks are not about the distance the Infants can go but instead about going at their pace and following where they may decide to lead. This can often mean only travelling a few metres from the centre gates before stopping to lay in the grass or discover natural treasures, while on the occasions it may end up a long walk around the farm or campus to discover new things.
Each week a group of Juniors head to the nearby Newstead walkway to spend the morning exploring nature without limitations. Every child in Juniors has the opportunity to go on these trips for a whole morning once a fortnight along with a small group of their peers. Feeling the wind on their face as they run in open areas, engaging in more challenging physical opportunities, and making new discoveries are at the heart of the Newstead visits. This is a great extension to the Infants programme, and prerequisite to the Preschool programme, as the Juniors children are able to engage in nature and experience nature-based learning opportunities with less limitations beyond the centre and campus grounds.
One day per week, nine preschool children head out to spend the day in the New Zealand Bush, leaving behind the ‘known’ fenced Preschool environment to explore the ‘unknown’ bush setting without boundaries. The purpose of the Children Reconnecting Outdoors with Nature is not to just go out into bush with set activities in mind, instead the children lead and initiate nearly all of the learning opportunities that take place while the teachers, and the bush, act as facilitators. Some of the learning opportunities that often take place include bivvy building, bow and arrow making, knot tying, compass work, plant and animal recognition, assessing biodegradability, bush skills (such as how to keep safe when lost or injured), eel fishing, bird watching/spotting, rope climbing, and various imaginative play experiences. Through all of these activities, and more, we see a dramatic and visible change in the children.
Benefits of our WNOP programmes
- Respect for the natural environment and an understanding and desire to better care for it;
- Passion for nature and the wonders that can be found in exploring the natural world;
- Capabilities and competencies for accepting challenges, managing and taking risks;
- Freedom to explore new surroundings, and embrace imaginative play in a range of contexts.
- An understanding and appreciation for Papatūānuku. Learning about the natural environment, and how to care for it and respect it;
- A sense of ownership for a piece of natural environment that they can then share with their peers and families;
- Learning how to manage themselves in a new environment;
- Learning how to work together, and strengthen and build relationships with each other as they communicate verbally with each other to achieve their goals;
- Developing and growing their leadership skills through working with others and problem solving situations;
- Gaining increasing control of their bodies and extending gross and fine motor skills;
- Taking carefully managed risks, and accept and be engaged in challenges in a new, safe environment;
- Deepening confidence;
- Extended problem solving skills and developing their understanding of mathematical concepts and spatial awareness;
- The creation of explorers who love to have fun in nature, make discoveries and have a strong sense of wonderment.