Right now, in Lake Macquarie, we are in lockdown. As I write this, it is day 6 of 7 (although there is the strong possibility that it won't all end tomorrow). I am working from home, while my three children (6, 8 and 11) are schooling from home. Last year, when COVID first interrupted usual programming, we spent many weeks schooling from home and to be honest - I hated it. This time around, I am trying hard to not let it stress me out, to not become frustrated with the amount of screen time it requires, to not groan at activities which feel trivial and time-filling. I'm probably failing miserably - but I am trying!
Yesterday afternoon, once the "school" work was done, we took a break and went for a bushwalk along the creek just near our home. Getting out for some daily exercise is important - especially for mental health - but it was more than that. As we walked through the bush we talked about the different birds we could see and hear, we hypothesised on what had made the track in the dirt, and we wondered about the various wild flowers we spotted.
While in the bush, we learned - together. We shared knowledge and pieced together what we each knew to develop a deeper understanding. When I spotted what looked to be a snake (most likely a lizard... I hope!) slithering off into the bush, we stopped for a moment. My six year old reminded us of the snake safety (stand still) she had learned when she was at preschool. My eleven year old questioned if his sister should be making so much noise tapping a stick on the ground, and we talked about whether snakes can hear or feel noise, considering they don't have external ears.
Learning doesn't just happen in a classroom
As huge advocates for nature play, we have always held value in being outside with children, in the learning that can take place outside. Now, with so much of New South Wales schooling from home - me included - it is such a great reminder that learning can and will happen anywhere.
In nature, we have the opportunity to learn in a sensorial, practical and connected way - to actually make sense of the world around us, rather than filling in a worksheet, or answering questions on a screen, or memorising facts.
Nature has lessons for those willing to slow down and take time to experience them.