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Beyond the Fence – extending children’s experiences outdoors
Beyond The Fence™ is a program offered at Forrest Out Of School Hours Care (FOOSHC) in Canberra where children play outdoors, build cubbies, climb trees, excavate the creek, have mud and water fights and relax outdoors. Kylie Keane, Educational Leader at FOOSHC, shares her story.
More than 100 children have ventured Beyond The Fence™ which takes place in a small, yet spacious nature strip adjacent to Forrest Primary School. These children all continue to amaze each and every one of the dedicated group of educators who work with them. The program started in 2014 and is roughly based on the concepts of Nature Kindergartens and Forest Schools in the United Kingdom. It acknowledges The Playwork Principles and advocates for what the principles suggest play should be:
Play is a process that is freely chosen, personally directed and intrinsically motivated. That is, children and young people determine and control the content and intent of their play, by following their own instincts, ideas and interests, in their own way for their own reasons. (See more in The Playwork Principles fact sheet.)
While the ideas of reconnecting children with nature are still prevalent, the underpinning philosophy of Beyond The Fence™ is children experiencing I did it moments; the first time they manage to light a fire, climb into a tree, or saw through a piece of wood. The program allows for risk taking and exploration, promotes an attachment to nature and the land, facilitates play and problem solving and develops survival, resilience and self-regulation skills.
We are often asked how a program like this is possible. What about the regulations? How do you manage the risks? In the beginning we took advice and guidance from a number of industry experts, and all the educators underwent training with the educational leader before facilitating the experiences.
There is nothing in the regulations that prohibits children from enjoying these types of experiences or us as educators facilitating them. It is about striking the right balance and weighing up the risks versus the benefits. Many Benefit Risk Assessments were penned before the pilot program, however it was the children’s contributions along the way that made these documents so valuable. The team of educators view children as capable, competent and active participants in all aspects of the program, and as such, the relationships that have formed are one of the most rewarding aspects of this amazing journey.
Family information sessions also contribute to the success of the program. We share not only the who, what, where and how but also the why with families and in turn they are our biggest advocates.
Beyond The Fence™ helped two children work through what had been a relationship fraught with bullying; to the point where one of the families was going to move their child to another school. The program gave them a reason to stay and saw the two boys graduate to high school as mates.
Beyond The Fence™ provides so many children, and educators alike, a place to play, take risks, explore the land and their identity, and to simply be.
Thanks for sharing and for providing children with a rich learning experience, you make me proud to be an educator. We do have an amazing job and can make a positive difference in the lives of young children and connectedness to the great outdoors.
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