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Children and Nature Conference – A Weekend Full of Nature Play!

The concept of “nature play” took centre stage on the weekend of August 5th and 6th, as nature play professionals, educators, local and state government representatives and passionate parents flocked to Fremantle for the second Nature Play WA Children and Nature Conference.

With four key note presentations and six case study speakers, the Children and Nature Conference 2017 provided delegates with plenty of inspiration, real life examples, and great information to continue the important ongoing conversations about nature and positive childhood outcomes.

The event was opened by conference MC, Christina Morrissy, a supporter of Nature Play WA, who shared personal stories of her experience with nature play before welcoming Professor Len Collard on stage for the Welcome to Country. Professor Collard delivered his address with knowledge, experience and humour.

Stephen Breen, Deputy Chair of the Nature Play WA Board, followed with the opening address from Nature Play WA, extending his gratitude to all attendees and providing insight into Nature Play WA as a board member.

The first keynote presentation of the day was delivered by Dr. Amanda Lloyd of Outdoor Connections, who shared anecdotes, photographs, entertaining GoPro footage, and fascinating research outcomes from her outdoor learning experience with a class of primary school children on the South Coast of New South Wales. Amanda’s presentation gave great motivation to delegates to pursue their own outdoor learning development.

The morning break was a great chance for delegates, speakers and the Nature Play WA team to network and engage in important conversations with peers. Attendees also used this time to browse exhibition booths from Nature Play WA, the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions, Sports and Recreation WA Camps (Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries), Educated by Nature, Outdoor Classroom Day, Reconciliation WA, Outdoors WA, Bluearth and Hike It Baby.

Back in the main conference room, Educated by Nature’s Daniel Burton and Trudi Bennett took to the stage to deliver the second keynote of the day. The pair shared their experiences of outdoor classrooms and discussed how to reach a balance between acheiving connected student learning opportunities and meeting curriculum policies. Daniel and Trudi provided delegates with ideas for implementing outdoor learning experiences in a range of settings.  

Emma Crawley, keynote speaker and special guest from Sweden, was next to address delegates. Emma discussed examples of Swedish schoolyard greening, and gave tips on how to create varied and stimulating outdoor classrooms and schoolyards. 

After lunch, delegates listened to local case study presentations from Debra Salahuddeen (Lance Holt School), Joanna Griffith (RAWA Community School), Maria Marsh (Moerlina School), Daniel Burton and Trudi Bennett (Nature Play WA Nature Educators), Nicole Hunter and Leslie Ray (Bold Park Community School) and Josique Lynch (Joondalup Early Learning Centre). These presentations provided delegates with firsthand experiences and skills used to develop outdoor classrooms and outdoor programs throughout Western Australia. It was an honour to have so many passionate educators attend the Children and Nature Conference to share their personal stories, triumphs and hurdles in the outdoor classroom field.

After a quick afternoon break, we were back for the final key note speaker, Torbjörn Wrange, an Outdoor Education Consultant from Sweden. Torbjörn gave insight into Swedish natural environments, and shared leadership keys which will no doubt assist in continuing our nature play journey.

The conference wrap up was followed by the sundowner, where delegates unwound and discussed their take away thoughts from the first day of the Children and Nature Conference over a glass of wine and some canapés. The day finished with a screening of the Nature Play Film, providing us with real life examples and information regarding the Scandinavian method of teaching compared to high stress testing practices in other cultures.

Bright and fresh on Sunday morning, day two of the Children and Nature Conference took place at Manning Park in Spearwood and was open to all conference attendees and their families. With a variety of outdoor activities and local businesses, attendees had some fun outdoors with their families and new friends. We would like to extend a special thanks to our friends at Loose Parts in Carts, Native ARC, Educated by Nature, City of Cockburn and the Cockburn Wetlands Education Centre for being part of the Children and Nature Conference, and sharing their stories and inspirations for outdoor play in Western Australia.

Nature Play WA would like to thank all speakers, attendees and the following sponsors – we could not have done it without you!

Platinum Sponsor: Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions , Silver Sponsor: City of Cockburn , Exhibition Sponsor: Nature Based Play

Want more info on outdoor education and how to implement it in your school or education centre?  Nature Play WA's Engaging Outdoor Learning Workshops are back for semester 2!  Find out more...

Words by Nicole McNamara, photographs by Ellery Spychalski.

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