Deakin University

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‘Don’t Pick, Don’t Lick’: Connecting Young Children’s Risky Play in Nature to Science Education in Australian Bush Kinders

journal contribution
posted on 2024-04-15, 05:16 authored by Chris SpeldewindeChris Speldewinde
AbstractThe forest school approach to nature learning has gathered momentum in the UK and across parts of Europe including Scandinavia for well over 50 years. In other contexts that include Canada, China, New Zealand and Australia, nature-based early childhood education and care settings, influenced by European forest school approaches, are in a rapid expansion phase as educators and policy makers acknowledge the benefits for children from time spent in nature. It is known that science education opportunities exist in these nature-based settings, yet this area has only garnered limited research attention to date. An example of a nature-based approach to early childhood education which emerged in the 2010s is the Australian ‘bush kinder’. Four- to five-year-old preschool children experience and learn from nature through play in bush kinders. This paper highlights the intersections that occur between risky play and science teaching and learning in the context of bush kinders. Through analysing research in early years science education, guiding curriculum frameworks and early childhood learning, I propose the importance of children’s risky play to early childhood science education. Drawing on vignettes from ethnographic fieldwork data, the merits of risky play in bush kinders to embed science knowledge is illustrated here. Participant observation was used to build a profile of each site and to gather data relating to how educators draw on children’s risky play to seek out opportunities to teach children about physical, chemical and biological science.



Early Childhood Education Journal




Berlin, Germany







Publication classification

C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal