PICTURE: Munibung Hill to the right and Waners Bay situated in the Biddabah Creek Catchment to the left. From the bushland to the lakeland and the residential land in between, the scope for learning ranges across each of these in the course of attempting to better understand where the human and the natural intersect.
LEARNING FOR LIFE AND LIFELONG LEARNING go hand in hand. For families in the north-ern NSW city of Port Macquarie there’s a school that adopts this method holus-bolus. It is a model that a group of local people in Lake Macquarie would like to see get off the ground. We reckon it’s a fantastic idea and that Munibung Hill would make a great classroom in association with other locations around the area.
In this story: The Nature School Secondary begins in Port Macquarie as demand continues to grow, Emma Siossian (ABC Mid North Coast, 2 February 2023) reports that:
An independent NSW school with a focus on nature and outdoor learning is in such high demand that it is taking on the challenge of expanding into secondary education. The Nature School, follows the standard national curriculum but aims to deliver it in a different way.
The school has grown rapidly since it began with 22 students from Kindergarten to Year 2 in 2018. It now has 140 students and has this year started its first year 7 class, with a waiting list for almost every year level.
“So, the school is full. We are at capacity,” head of school Catherine Shaw says. “Our secondary classes will remain small. We think that’s a strength of our school, so only 20 students in a year group.”
Scott Upston is the father of three boys who attend The Nature School and says they value the different teaching approach.
“Quite often a lot of the lessons are taught outside in the fresh air so, for our three boys, it’s not about being stuck in the rigidity of a classroom environment,” he says.
Ms Shaw says families are increasingly seeking alternatives to the mainstream education model. The philosophy of The Nature School is to deliver the NSW Syllabus for the Australian Curriculum in a more relaxed environment, which also enables students to connect with nature and engage with the local community.
Students are regularly taken outside the classroom to learn. In primary, students go on off-site “adventure days” while the secondary school will incorporate regular “field study days”.