Home' Belonging Early Years Journal : Vol 5 No 3 Contents BELONGING EARLY YEARS JOURNAL • VOLUME 5 NUMBER 3 • 2016 • 9
educational resources, programs + planning
The overall aim of the program is for children to
develop environmental awareness and knowledge
of ethically sustainable practices that reflect
ecological and cultural values of global citizenship
and the protection of the earth. Other goals include
helping children to connect cognitively, physically,
socially, emotionally, aesthetically and spiritually
with their local natural environment (DEEWR 2009);
to develop respectful, caring and empathetic
attitudes towards its flora and fauna; and to develop
a growing understanding of the Wurundjeri people
as the custodians of the land. Within a ‘community of
learners’ (Rogoff 1994), children and teachers engage
in experiential collaborative learning that has an end
result of all participants having active citizenships
and environmental stewardship by speaking out
about environmental concerns that have an impact
on their lives (UNCRC 1998). The program involves
‘stepping out, finding out and speaking out’ (ELC
2014) processes, which are enacted by walking
as a large group to a variety of destinations in the
local environment, exploring through the senses
and playing with what the environments have to
offer; teacher scaffolding (Bruner, 1966), to extend
children’s knowledge; and finally, the children’s
engagement in ‘drawing telling’ (Wright, 2010) and
thinking routines (Ritchhart, Church & Morrison, 2011)
to enable children to give a voice to their ideas and
understandings of the environment.
In 2015, a pilot research project investigated the
children’s learning during the LNP. An analysis of 56
‘drawing tellings’ (Wright 2010) collected over four
weeks revealed the following learning outcomes for
the participating children:
heightened environmental awareness
articulated care, concern and protection for the
sustained interest in, and engagement with, a
variety of ecological processes
connections made between self, others, and the
natural and built worlds
increased knowledge of local flora, fauna and
These findings are consistent with literature (O’Brien,
2009; Elliott, 2010) that notes that young children
readily engage critically with a range of environmental
themes and issues, and that programs – such as the
LNP – stimulate reflective and responsive processes that
produce deep, abstract, critical and flexible thinking.
Importantly, the research highlights how learning in
the natural environment helps children to develop and
enact empathy for the earth, and to take responsibility
for the care of its remarkable biodiversity.
Bruner, J. S. (1966). Toward a theory of instruction. Cambridge: Harvard
Cutter-Mackenzie, A., & Smith, R. (2003). ‘Ecological literacy: The “missing”
paradigm in environmental education (Part One)’. Environmental
Education Research, 9(4), 497-524.
Davis, J. E . (Ed). (2010) Young children and the Environment: Early
Education for Sustainability. Victoria: Cambridge University Press.
Davis, J., & Elliott, S. (2003). Early Childhood Environmental Education:
Making it Mainstream. Canberra: Early Childhood Australia.
DEEWR - Department of Education, Employment and Workplace (2009).
Belonging, Being & Becoming. The Early Years Learning Framework for
Australia. ACT: Commonwealth Copyright Division.
Early Learning Centre (ELC) (2014). Action Yarra: stepping out, finding
out, speaking out. Unpublished DVD. The University of Melbourne, Early
Elliott, S. (2010). ‘Children in the natural world’. In J. Davis (Ed.), Young
children and the environment. Early education for sustainability (pp.44-
75). Sydney: Cambridge University press.
Elliott, S. & Chancellor, B. (2012). Westgarth Kindergarten Bush Kinder
Evaluation Report. Westgarth, Melbourne: Westgarth Kindergarten and
Knight, S. (2011) Forest Schools and Outdoor Learning in the early years.
London: Sage Publications.
O’Brien, L. (2009). ‘Learning outdoors: the Forest School approach.’
Education 3-13, 37(1), 45-60.
Palmer, J. A. (1998). ‘Environmental education for the 21st century.’ Theory,
practice, progress and promise. London: Routledge Falmer.
Ritchhart, R., Church, M., & Morrison, K. (2011). Making thinking visible.
How to promote engagement, understanding, and independence for
all learners. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Rogoff, B. (1994). ‘Developing understanding of the idea of communities
of learners.’ Mind, Culture and Activity, 1(4), 209-229.
Torquati, J., Ganriel, M. M ., Jones-Branch, J. & Leeper-Miller, J. (2010).
‘Environmental Education: A Way to Nurture Children’s Development
and Learning.’ Young Children 65 (6) pp. 98-104.
United Nations. (1989). Convention on the Rights of the Child. Geneva:
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner of Human Rights.
Warden, C. (2010). Nature Kindergartens and Forest Schools.
Mindstretchers Ltd: United Kingdom.
Wright, S. (2010). Understanding creativity in early childhood meaning
making and children’s drawing. Washington DC: Sage.
Young, T. (2007). ‘Why do young children need to know about climate
change?’ Voice, 3(3), 3.
Ethics approval has been obtained through
the University of Melbourne for further research
to be undertaken in 2016 to examine the
holistic learning of the children as they interact
with the natural environment and the role of
the teacher in enabling the learning.
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