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Wanaka Preschool recognises the benefits and learning experienced when the children are outdoors. We are members of the Enviroschools Programme and are committed to providing opportunities for children to experience and learn through nature on a regular basis.

Since Apri 2012, as part of our curriculum, 10 children from Preschool spend one morning a week exploring Wanaka Station Park. The children play in the trees, find and build huts, look for and learn about birds, insects, plants and flowers, fire up the Thermette to have a hot drink and learn about fire safety as well as learning much much more.... 

Below is a review of our 'Explorers Programme' outlining the learning happening....I hope you enjoy reading about it :)

Kind Regards Lucy Robins, Teacher, Wanaka Preschool

Being in nature...

What is the environmental issue? How was it identified? 

We wanted to develop the children’s awareness and understanding of the natural environment and knowledge of our local area. Through observation and informal and formal discussion we identified a strong interest amongst many of the children in animals, plants, the weather and just ‘being outside’. When time afforded we began to take small groups of children on short walks to places not far from our centre, we would collect leaves, wild flowers, acorns and horse chestnuts, listen for birds, look for insects and to pick up litter. We wanted to make these walks a regular event, and began to look for suitable locations and ways to manage the logistics of regularly taking a small group of children out of the centre for a defined period of time.

What are the learning outcomes? How will you know when they have been achieved? 

The learning is manifold. During the programme the children learn aspects of search and rescue, fire safety (after acquiring a Thermette from one of our Grandparents we began to incorporate making Milo in the experience), dog safety, tree and plant recognition and how to identify bird calls, there are also plenty of physical challenges and opportunities to develop a great sense of exploration and discovery. By ‘being in nature’ the children begin to develop an affinity for the environment which in turns promotes a natural interest and a respect for it. The discussions promoted by our explorations are diverse and varied and prompts use of language and vocabulary which may not of otherwise been applicable. The Explorers Programme also promotes dispositions such as enquiry, taking responsibility co-operation, listening and nurturing – to name a few.

We have noticed that the children not only enjoy these walks immensely but are also more relaxed in their interactions when they return. Feedback from the parents has also been extremely positive with parents asking if they can come and help and asking when their child can join the programme. Already the children have begun to bring the language and knowledge they are learning on the programme back into the centre to share with the other children, and are using the te reo names for birds and plants that they recognise in the playground or in books. We have also noticed that the children are becoming more familiar with the names of places and landmarks in the area.


How do the children take action for the environment? 

Through the ‘Explorers Programme’ we are hoping to promote and develop an awareness and affinity of the environment and a knowledge and appreciation of our local area which is life long. We hope that we are enabling the children to grow up with a, “connection to nature and a sense of belonging to the environment and community”. The Enviroschool Foundation, NZ May 2011.

How is the programme integrated throughout the preschool? 

The programme complements our whole centre philosophy and sits wonderfully under our Enviroschool umbrella, both of which strongly support the values of working alongside families to create a healthy, peaceful and sustainable community. Our vision is for the ‘Explorers’ to become a permanent and ongoing programme. Although logistically we can only take a maximum of 10 children out of the centre with two teachers and one parent help, we chose to take the 10 oldest children in the hope that over time every child will have an opportunity to participate for at least a term.

Currently all the children and teachers at the centre enjoy the stories and photographs that come back from each session. J