A project using outdoor environments and Aboriginal culture to inspire learning in young children won the Community Award for Children’s Week WA.
The Bush Schools project has involved Brookman Primary School students working with Nyungar Elder Leonard Thorn to deepen their understanding of Aboriginal culture past and present and the continuing relationship they have with nature.
The project, which began in April, has expanded from an initial group of Aboriginal students to involve three Year One classes visiting the Kent Street Weir next to the Canning River each week.
Murdoch University education researchers Libby Jackson-Barrett and Associate Professor Libby Lee-Hammond developed the idea for the Bush Schools project after hearing about forest schools in the UK and Europe.
They were joined by Associate Professor Cheryl Kickett-Tucker and project officer Jasmyn Yavu-Kama who worked with the Aboriginal students to measure the effect of the program on their racial identity.
“We wanted to investigate the idea that children can learn outside of the four walls of the classroom,” said Professor Lee-Hammond.
“This research has shown that levels of wellbeing and engagement in children increase when they are outdoors. Teachers are really able to bring subjects like science and maths alive when children are engaged.”
The program takes Year One aged children out of the classroom and into the Canning St Weir once a week where they engage with Nyungar Elders who tell them stories, teach them songs, hunting and gathering and help them to explore and understand the local bush.
“The response from the children, parents and teachers involved in the program has been so positive and we are looking forward to seeing how this translates into learning outcomes in the classroom,” Professor Lee-Hammond said.
The team is hoping to expand the Bush Schools program in to the Kimberley region.