Climbing trees, planting seedlings, jumping in muddy puddles and making tree canopies – Outdoor Classroom Day on Thursday, 3 November is a global movement encouraging young people to revel in the simple wonder of nature, every day!
Strongly supporting this movement is Matthew Flinders Anglican College, a Prep to Year 12 independent school on the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, where time in nature is valued and encouraged.
At Flinders, there are chickens to feed on the farm, veggie gardens to tend to, an outdoor classroom to tinker in amidst the rainforest, and bush kindy programs for students to venture into the forest.
The rainforest that surrounds the College’s campus is home to diverse native tree species, including coffee plants, eucalyptus trees, gum trees and vibes, and attracts birds and other animals.
Principal Stuart Meade said Flinders embraced its important role to encourage its students to connect with nature daily.
“We are fortunate to have a 22-hectare campus surrounded by rainforest that is an inspiring, peaceful and nurturing environment for our students and staff to learn and teach in,” Stuart said.
“In celebrating Outdoor Classroom Day 2022, Flinders recognises that time in nature is full of health benefits and teaches key skills, which is why we offer so many opportunities for our students of all ages to learn and play outdoors,” he said.
This year at Flinders, new nature-based projects included the environmental summit for secondary school students across the Sunshine Coast, a forest play co-curricular program for the Junior Primary students, and a workshop series on growing food and apiary skills at the Flinders Farm for all ages.
Long-running programs at Flinders continued to be enjoyed, including the Flinders Early Learning Centre’s Bush Kindy program and the Primary School’s Outdoor Classroom for students to play and tinker on craft projects in a peaceful shady outdoor space.
Head of Primary, Mrs Trudi Edwards said the Primary years were especially important for learning through nature experiences.
“When our young learners spend quality time outdoors they are connecting, playing, learning, problem solving and taking risks,” Trudi said.
“Playing outdoors helps them develop so many of the 6Cs, vital 21st century skills, such as collaboration and creativity, communication and critical thinking,” she said.
“And then, of course, time in nature is full of joy! Which is what we value for our students’ learning growth and development at Flinders.”
The College campus has well maintained gardens and lawns, nature playgrounds, an outdoor classroom, the Flinders Farm, and two sprawling manicured sports ovals.
Here are more on the ways the Flinders community is engaging, exploring and learning in nature in 2022.
Flinders’ Forest Friends Program
As part of the 2022 Find My Spark co-curricular program at Flinders Primary School, a group of students from Prep to Year 3 are exploring the campus’ beautiful forest and natural running creek. Students use branches, twigs, leaves, rocks and dirt to create art, build habitats for the wildlife and play games, such as tic-tac-toe. They also embark on nature scavenger hunts and dream up their own games.
Walking adventures are common, with students keen to discover and learn about plant species and observe wildlife, such as birds, lizards, a bee hive and even an echidna! Students also play alongside older students exploring in the Flinders Outdoor Classroom. During one forest adventure, a group of students made a trap together, ultimately catching a small yabby and some fish to observe before releasing it back into the creek.
Maths and science concepts are naturally implemented on these forest forays, capitalising on the ‘teachable moments’ where learning is rich, purposeful, contextualised and engaging!
Flinders Outdoor Classroom
Opened in the Flinders Primary School campus in 2018, the Outdoor Classroom is a peaceful outdoor area fringed by rainforest and featuring tree log seats, recycled pallet tables and trees and shrubbery. It is used by students every lunchtime, providing a peaceful and shady play space to construct, tinker and share ideas.