Frequently Asked Questions - Early Years
The Nature School Inc. is a transparent not for profit communication organisation. If there are any questions unanswered in this page please do not hesitate to contact us.
What is the difference between The Nature School Early Years Program and other early childhood programs?
The Nature School takes place entirely outdoors. The base camp tent offers shelter from the weather if needed, and a place to gather and rest. The sessions are creative, hands on, experiential, learner-led and largely unstructured. Children spend up to a full day outdoors in wild spaces driving their own learning through the exploration of the natural environment. Children are given the opportunity to learn how to manage risks, use their unending imagination and creativity, build respect for one another and for the natural environment.
The Nature School is currently not registered with ACEQA. The bush school concept does not fit into this form of registration... we do not have walls.
What happens if it's raining?
There is a Norwegian saying, which is often referred to in forest schools: “There’s no bad weather, only bad clothing”. So if it’s raining, dress your child appropriately, with a rain jacket, gumboots and weatherproof pants and we’ll have just as much, or even more, fun outdoors. Educators and children will erect our base camp tent each day where everyone can stay dry for meals, rest, circle time and if we just need to have a break from the rain. And really...the potential of a puddle is endless.
Extreme Weather Policy
In the event of extreme weather, as defined by the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM), The Nature School may cancel or shorten a program session/s. The BOM defines extreme weather as (1) temperature of 36 degrees Celsius or greater, (2) wind of 50km per hour or greater, and/or (3) Thunder/electrical storms. Our Educators will make a thorough risk assessment based on this definition, and on other warnings raised by the BOM (including flood and fire warnings), and will contact families via email and text to inform them of any changes. Program session may be cancelled or shortened the day before, the morning of, or mid-session. It is essential that you are contactable at all times.
Where is The Nature School?
The Nature School's programs take place in a variety of locations. Due to the children's safety these locations are not publicised. Once families are enrolled they are informed of the locations for the term. There are permits in place with a variety of landowners such as private people, the Port Macquarie-Hastings Council, NSW National Parks, Forestry Corporation and others. The sites are permanent for a term unless there is an extreme weather warning where certain bush sites are unsafe. One of the organisation's sustainability goals is to move the programs from site to site to minimise the environmental impact.
Each site is accessed with a risk assessment and a daily checklist ensuring everyone's safety. The locations for The Nature School programs have specific characteristics. The natural spaces need to be explorable with enough open space as well as bushy areas. There should be different flora available such as branches, different sized and types of trees and bushes, fallen logs, rocks and other items that can create different habitat for creatures. It should be away from major traffic areas and a safe environment to explore. Each space is different and each permit and risk assessment is different as well. The Nature School educators choose location that are not overly humid as this could attract mosquitoes, leeches and ticks. The aim is to explore different spaces within the community and ensure they are used appropriately and respected by children and families.
What is the ratio of adult:students?
According to the current National Regulations the ratio within an early childhood setting for children aged 36 months and up to preschool age is 1 educator to 11 children. In a Family Day care setting, the ratio is one adult to 7 children (with no more than 4 children preschool age or under).
In research of forest school settings throughout Europe and with the National Regulations in mind The Nature School Inc has decided that a ratio of 1 adult to 5 children is a safe and appropriate ratio for the programs. Each program with children 3 – 6 years old will not exceed 14 children. This means there will always be at least 2 qualified educators on site as well as one volunteer (please note all volunteers have a working with children check).
The School Holiday Programs accept children aged up to 12 years old. The ratio in this instance will be 1 adult to 7 children.
The workshops for adults include a program with intellectually disabled adults where 2 educators and 1-2 support workers will be present.
Isn't it dangerous?
Learning how to manage risk is essential in early childhood. As Sara Knight describes in her book Risk & Adventure in Early Years Outdoor Play: Learning from Forest Schools – “An uneven surface or sand and mud are a challenge and a risky situation for children that are learning how to walk. However, if children only learn how to walk on even, concrete or carpet surfaces, when they are eventually faced with an uneven surface they might be unwillingly put in danger as they do not know how to use the space or how to walk.” At The Nature School the aim is to feed children’s innate need for risk with reasonable risk in order to prevent them finding greater unmanaged risks for themselves.
What about risk assessments?
The Nature School Inc has risk assessments and emergency evacuation plans for each site. These are used in the case of serious injury and in the event of fire or any other major hazards. As part of the daily risk assessments the educators will determine whether or not a site is safe. The weather will determine what site is used on any particular day, and which area of the site can/cannot be used. Once The Nature School has announced the program’s location, risk assessments and emergency evacuation plans can be viewed by families.
Do you have insurance? What does it include?
Part of the annual fee payment of $80 covers insurance costs associated with your child attending the programs. The organisation’s insurance policy is very comprehensive and covers $20 million public liability, professional indemnity, campfires, bushwalks and general outdoor play.
The organisation is also registered and paying for NSW WorkCover.
Why do I have to pay for the entire program's term in advance?
The Nature School understands that it might seem like a significant amount of money upfront, however this will minimise administration time, processing fees and invoices. This ensures educators spend more time and effort with the children rather than on administration. The Nature School Inc is a Not for Profit organisation, and the goal is to spend the majority of the income on program delivery.
We do however recognise that upfront payment of fees can be difficult for some families, so we are currently trialling a fortnightly payment plan for term fees. It is our hope that this will make our program more accessible for all families. For further information on fees and payment, please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org.
For families who do make upfront term payments, they will receive a discount on their following term fees.
Is my child ready for The Nature School?
This applies to the early childhood program and the school holidays program. The Nature School program is very different to a usual child care setting. There are a few things that children need to be comfortable with before joining the program. This ensures the safety of your child, and of others.
1. Ability to listen and follow instructions
2. Is independent in toileting
We recommmend that children who still need a midday rest to attend the 3hr session to begin with. Attending our information session prior to final enrolment is essential for you to determine which program you think your child is ready for. These information sessions are held mid term each term – please contact us for more information.
What do we mean by independent in toileting?
The team understands that it can take time for children to develop this skill. Educators are happy to assist children to use the toilet (such as sitting on the toilet, assisting to put their clothing on/off, using toilet paper), but are unable to offer places to children who use nappies due to the additional time taken to manage this. The Nature School Inc. apologises if this is the case for your child, and look forward to offering a place to them in the near future.
Can I visit the program?