Home' Belonging Early Years Journal : Vol 5 No 2 Contents BELONGING EARLY YEARS JOURNAL • VOLUME 5 NUMBER 2 • 2016 • 53
play areas, equipment + sustainable practice
thinking from both Australian Indigenous cultures and
settler Australian bush traditions?
DF: One of the great things about being at bush
kinder is that we’re on land that has an incredible
history. Although it’s currently public parkland, it’s really
obvious when you look at the site that it has a long
history. We’ve got big volcanic rocks that are strewn
around the place; when you look at the creek, we’ve
got signs of when the site used to be under the sea;
there used to be megafauna – you can imagine
that the children just love the stories of megafauna
stomping around the place – and then we’ve got the
human history. For us at the Darebin Parklands, the
people who used to [call] that land home are part
of a group called the Wurundjeri-willam, so we’re on
Wurundjeri-willam land. The land has a really strong
history, and that’s something that we talk about with
the children on a daily basis.
Later, this area was used as farmland; and after
that, a large part of the Darebin Parklands was
used as a quarry – it was dug up and used to build
Melbourne. Clay was quarried from this spot to
make bricks that built a lot of the houses in the area,
and bluestone was taken from there to build the
foundations of some of the major buildings around
Melbourne. After that, it was used as a tip, and then it
was turned into the public park that it is now. It’s got
this amazing history, full of historical stories that we can
tell the children.
For example, there are remnants of old farmers’
tracks, so we can talk about how the farmers would
have had to travel [to get] their food to market. If
we wanted to talk about something like geology, we
can look at the rocks that are here, and then we can
extend that into a discussion of cities being built.Those
kinds of discussions really connect children to place in
a way that you can’t really do with a book.
B: How does the Westgarth Bush Kinder program
encourage children to think about sustainability from
an early age?
DF: When we talk about sustainability and the
health of the world, we know that our understanding
of the world is much more meaningful when we’re
connected to a space. For instance, we know that
there are spots in the Darebin Parklands that are old
tips that have been filled in, and because of that the
water is still a bit poisonous. Those sorts of things are
really meaningful when we talk to children about
caring for the world.
When we talk about the site’s history, we talk about
the Wurundjeri people who used to live on that site,
and how they had looked after the land for such a
long time. We talk about the Wurundjeri people as the
custodians of the land, but we also say that we, too,
are custodians of the land. We use that language of
being custodians a lot with the children.
Because we erode the site by being there, we’ve
done things like gathering seeds from the native plants,
together with the rangers, and we’ve done lots of
replanting of the site. These things have sustainability
and custodianship built into them. Sustainability is more
than just picking up rubbish – it’s about thinking, as
custodians of this space, how we can look after what
we have and make it better for the future.
B: What is the key concept that you hope children
will take away from their learning at Westgarth Bush
Kinder and put into practice later in life?
DF: I want children to go away thinking that they’re
intelligent, competent and capable. I want them
to think that they have a responsibility to look after
themselves, each other and the world.
I want children to leave thinking that they’re in a
position where they can be who they are, and that
that’s a good thing to be – whatever that happens to
be. When young people think this way, they’re capable
of making their own lives better, they’re capable of
making the lives of other people better, and they’re
capable of making the world better. My goal as
an educator is [to make sure that] children feel
empowered, and bush kinder really promotes that.
Outdoor play spaces
have almost always been
recognised as the ideal
place for children to learn.
In Australia, the Aboriginal
people were teaching and
learning from the land for
50,000 years. In the European
history of early childhood, you
have people like Friedrich
Froebel, who was the inventor
of kindergartens, and who
promoted nature as the model
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