How The Nature School Inc. started
The Nature School Inc. was born from the vision and passion of three local environmentalists and educators – Lloyd Godson, Sybil Juzwiak Doyle and Jodie Feeney – who saw a need for children and their families to spend more time in nature. During a picnic lunch among friends, the conversation and commitment started in November 2014.
After numerous hours of meetings, brainstorming ideas and the creation of a name, they founded The Nature School Incorporated on 11 March 2015 as a not for profit association. The association is governed by a volunteer Board of Directors who bring a variety of skills and expertise to the organisation.
In April 2015 the domain name was purchased and the Facebook page was launched with information about our upcoming nature immersion pilot program for 3-6 year old children. Educators, parents, grandparents and others started contacting the Founders with enthusiasm and questions about how to get involved in our pilot program. The Founders were delighted when 24 families enrolled in the first ever 'bush school' in Port Macquarie, NSW, Australia.
The Nature School was successful in securing competitive funding from the Port Macquarie-Hastings Council, which allowed the organisation to purchase the equipment required to start the pilot program. The Port Macquarie-Hastings Council also issued The Nature School with a temporary permit to use a council managed Crown reserve. The Australian Geographic Society awarded The Nature School a sponsorship prize to allow children from disadvantaged backgrounds to attend our sessions. These positions were allocated, in partnership with Mission Australia, to families in need. Ken Little's Quality Fruit and Vegetables donated fruit for the children and Kristina Georges donated two canvas bell tents, which will be the basecamp of The Nature School programs for many years to come. We were ready to go!
The pioneering families and children joined in an adventure of learning from and within nature on July 14th 2015. The Port Macquarie-Hastings Council Mayor, Peter Besseling, joined us on our open day (pictured below right) and spoke to the media about the importance of reconnecting children and their families with nature. By the end of our successful 8-week pilot program there were over 1000 people and organisations that had "liked" our Facebook page. Pictures of children in nature and Koalas visiting the pilot program were shared around the globe by like-minded individuals and organisations in Australia, Vietnam, Germany, Japan, Brazil and Greece.
Due to popular demand, The Nature School ran a one-week pilot school holiday program in September 2015 for children aged from 3 up to 12 years old. This program took place at Sea Acres National Park using a temporary permit issued by the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service. This week of bush walks, leeches, torrential rain, building shelters, climbing trees and wildlife spotting was a great learning experience for all involved.
Term 4 of 2015 marked the official launch of our full-term programs for children aged 3 years and older. Our three and six hour sessions are currently conducted from Tuesday to Friday in a variety of 'wild' spaces.
The year of 2016 had its successes and challenges but we were gifted with the recognition of being certified as an Australian Registered Charity. The Nature School - explorers by nature was also granted its 10 year trademark. The year ended with the idea and additional energy to start The Nature School Primary. Matthew Whatman joined the Board of Directors and pushed everyone forward to achieve the 31 March 2017 deadline of applying for a school license with NESA.
In the beginning of the year of 2017 the organisation managed to pay for facilitators to run the playgroup for children aged 0-3 years old and their families as a feeder program for the Early Years Program. In October 2017 the minister for education signed The Nature School Primary license and with excitement we were ready to take on enrolments and start a school in 2018.
January 30 2018 marked a momentous occasion for the organisation. TNS Primary opened its doors to Kindergarten - Year 2 children with Catherine Oehlman as the Head Teacher and Roy Fleissgarten leading the way. The school started with 21 children (very close to its full capacity of 25).
We look forward to further growth in the coming years... join us on the adventure!