Every second Monday in terms 2 and 3, Bowman Park in Crystal Brook is filled with children from the local kindergarten as part of their play and exploration with Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM).
Crystal Brook Kindergarten was one of 20 early learning sites selected last year to investigate and lead a STEM Play Inquiry project aimed at developing children’s curiosity, encouraging them to question and use scientific thinking skills to solve real life problems in the outdoor environment.
Kindergarten Director Karena Wilson found the project to be a valuable way to engage children and develop essential learning dispositions such as enthusiasm, collaboration and persistence. Children were involved in asking questions, discussing and designing solutions to real world problems.
“To lead the inquiry we came up with the following question ‘How can Nature Play, with a STEM focus, support risk taking in children, parents and educators?” said Karena.
“Studies indicate that children develop learning processes such as critical thinking, problem solving and investigating from spending time outdoors and so we chose to head out into nature and put this to the test.”
“Our trips to Bowman Park not only teach our children to enquire and explore their environment, it also teaches them to be brave and test their boundaries.”
“Consequently our children now look at the challenge of climbing a hill or exploring a creek bed and ask themselves and others how they can overcome it.”
Karena notes that parent and caregiver participation is an important part of the project as they can see their child actively engaging in an outdoor environment and developing skills that are transferrable from one context to another.
“We noticed a recognisable shift in our parents’ ability to trust their children to explore outdoor spaces, without having to stress over whether they will hurt themselves.”
“Risk taking was a focus because of its value to learning. When children take risks they are challenging themselves physically and mentally and developing greater confidence in exploring new ideas and possibilities.”
“The elements of nature play are an important feature of our trips to Bowman Park has and have a significant impact on the wellbeing of our children, staff and families.”
Not 5 minutes from the bush? No worries! Keep an eye out in the next few weeks to see how Mark Oliphant Children’s Centre executed their inquiry project.