In our very first Nurture in Nature Bush Playgroup & Family Nature Club outing on Saturday 4th October 2014, we visited Mt Leura and Mt Sugarloaf Reserve in Camperdown.
It was a wonderful turn out for the first session, with a total of 22 Participants (12 Kids and 9 Adults) from 7 Families. The children were aged from 2 to 8.
After a brief welcome, introduction and simple safety briefing from me, the families mingled and meet each other and enjoyed exploring the natural area around the lower shelter.
A major aim for the group is to encourage families to engage in free, unstructured play in nature, and in the welcome and introduction parents/carers were encouraged to take a step back and let the kids make their own first discoveries and lead the way in their play and exploration.
We talked about the recent tree planting day that had been held there a couple of weeks prior, and my children Nash (5) and Taylor (3) busily went to check on “their” Running Postman and Kangaroo Grasses to make sure that they were still growing nicely. They reported back that they were all looking “just right”.
After about only 10 minutes of free play and exploring around the lower shelter, plans changed and the original planned activity for the start of the session (“Nature Chatterbox”) was left for another time. The kids’ had decided they wanted get moving and ”Climb the Volcano” and “See the big hole in the middle of the mountain”, so as encouraged to do so initially, the adults followed the kids’ lead and off we headed.
Some walked, a couple crawled and the very little ones were carried up to the Shelter area near the crater. There was an excited air of anticipation as the kids scampered up the decent incline and everyone was looking forward to “seeing inside the Volcano” but they hoped there was “no hot smoking lava” in it today.
Along the way, Nash was excited to point out to everyone where one of the Geocache Boxes was located, and informed the group that “there was also another one at the top of the mountain but it had been taken by some naughty people and luckily Grant had put another one there for people to find”. Nash had reminded Grant to make sure he put a new one there EVERY time he saw him after we originally found it missing, and when it was replaced, Grant made sure he sent me a message to pass on to Nash that he had done it. Nash was impressed, and very happy.
We stopped for a snack and a drink at the Shelter area and the kids pondered and chatted as they peered down into the crater. We read on the information board about the dinosaurs who walked these volcanic plains in pre-historic times and about the indigenous communities who inhabited the area in times past and for whom it holds special significance today. The kids were excited to think that dinosaurs were here and about the lava and scoria “spewing out of the mountain”.
The kids were innately drawn towards the small water trough at the back of the Shelter where they played and chatted for quite some time. They discussed what they thought the trough was for and decided that animals would “probably use it to drink out of if they were thirsty”. When asked what animals they thought might drink from it, the kids suggested wallabies, kangaroos, cows, sheep, dogs and maybe some birds. “They dinosaurs probably drank from here too”, one of them remarked.
On the way back down, we met up with Greg Farmer, former Project Officer from the Friends of Mt Leura and Mt Sugarloaf. Greg was doing some work around the reserve, and stopped to chat with us. He provided members of our group with copies of the Mt Leura and Mt Sugarloaf Booklet, “The Volcanic Edge”.
Once down back at the Lower Information Shelter, the families said their farewell’s and said they’d had lots of fun and were looking forward to the next session.
All of the families attending the session had been up to Mount Leura in the past, but most of the parents stated that “we don’t come up here often enough”. They commented that it was nice to meet and hang out in a relaxed group environment with other families, get outdoors together with their own family and to explore our areas great natural places.
Nash, Taylor and I stayed and played around the lower information shelter for a while after everyone left, eating our pre-prepared scroggin to “refuel our engines”. Nash decided to show Taylor “how to make shadows with sticks to tell the time”. He estimated that it was almost 3.15pm (that time being perhaps coincidentally when his favourite showThomas and Friends is on TV).
Greg Farmer made the great suggestion that next time we visited, if we wanted to walk further on the Mount, that we could organise to meet at the top and walk down the walking track, leaving one car down at the Information Shelter. That way we could walk all the way down and then ferry parents back up to get the cars afterwards. Walking down might be a bit easier on littler legs! A great idea indeed, and one we’ll do I’m sure, but I will say that I’m in awe of how those littler legs scampered up the hills, and although they may have been tired when we finished, the kids were really proud that “they made it all the way on their own”. Such experiences are invaluable for children in inspiring confidence, capability, persistence and a great feeling of acheivement.
Three weeks after the session, one of the parents reported to me that their kids repeatedly asked when they saw Mt Leura when they were going to “Get to go back up to climb inside the volcano”.
The families are looking forward to meeting up again for our November Session and the venue will be the Camperdown Botanic Gardens.
Word of mouth, Nurture in Nature’s website and social media were the primary ways that people found out about the new Bush Playgroup and Family Nature Club. In future, one of the strategies to help boost numbers will be to work with Council on using avenues of promotion they have. Other strategies will include getting some local media coverage, as well as promoting the group through Childcare Centre’s, Kindergarten’s, Schools, Community Newsletters and other relevant avenues.
If you’d like inquire about more information on the Bush Playgroup and Family Nature Club and the many other programs and activities that Nurture in Nature offers, please contact: