Early Years
Frequently Asked Questions

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 Early Years and other programs for young children?

Our Bush Skills program takes place entirely outdoors and allows young children to explore nature and develop bush skills in a safe and inclusive environment. Children learn and play in all weather, and facilitators construct shelter from the weather if needed. Children spend up to a full day outdoors in wild spaces with opportunity to drive their own skill development through instruction and the exploration of the natural environment. Children are given the opportunity to learn how to manage risks, use their imagination and creativity, build respect for one another and for the natural environment.

 

While The Nature School Incorporated is in the process of applying for service approval for a Mobile Preschool, our Early Years Skills program is NOT a registered education and care service. TNS works closely with the NSW Department of Education and independent advisors to ensure we are operating appropriately within the Education and Care National Law where it applies.

What do they learn?

This program does not follow the Early Years Learning Framework or other National Curriculum guidelines. Sessions are instead planned around the Early Years Program Statement, and operations are guided by the Australian Adventure Activity Standards. Our program statement guides a seasonal program designed around building the skill set of young children and incidentally, their holistic development through social interactions and sensory integration in nature. Our Program Statement ensures that facilitators program sessions around place-based opportunities in the local area as we as embedding local Aboriginal perspectives.

While facilitators work with children to develop hands-on skills, the benefits of being in nature include risk taking and assessment skills, sensory integration, and physical, social, emotional and cognitive development. Children can spend each day in nature with their regular peer group, learning bush and life skills that build their autonomy, confidence and resilience, all while making friends and building social and emotional skills.

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”. If it is raining, children must come dressed appropriately, with a rain jacket, gumboots and weatherproof pants, so we are able to have plenty of fun out in the rain! Facilitators and children will build a shelter together when needed, where everyone can stay dry for meals, rest, circle time and if we just need to have a break from the rain.

 

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 sessions may be cancelled or shortened the day before, the morning of, or mid-session. It is essential that you are always contactable.

Where are the sessions?

Our sessions take place in a variety of locations in and around Port Macquarie. Due to the children's safety these locations are not publicised. General areas are given on enquiry, and once children are enrolled families are informed of the locations for the term. There are permits in place with a variety of landowners such as private landowners and the Port Macquarie-Hastings Council. The sites are permanent for a term unless there is an extreme weather warning where certain bush sites are unsafe. Our goal is to move the programs from site to site to minimise the environmental impact.

 

Each site is accessed with a thorough risk assessment, and a daily safety check to ensure 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. It should be away from major traffic areas and a safe environment to explore. Each space is different, and each risk assessment is different as well. The Nature School Executive team chooses locations 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 to children?

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 – 5 years old will not exceed 15 children. There will always be at least 2 facilitators on site for child protection purposes, and 3 facilitators throughout the day while all children are in attendance.

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?

Absolutely. Part of the annual fee payment of $100 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.

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 info@thenatureschool.org.au

Why is the program so expensive?

As our Early Years Skills programs are a nature-based activity program and not a registered early childhood education and care service, we do not qualify for any government rebates. As such, full fees must be charged to cover staffing, land use and resources.

Is my child ready for The Nature School?

This applies to the Early Years 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 recommend that children who still need a midday rest to attend the 3hr session initially.

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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.