Jennifer McCormack and Narell Neville
Lead outdoor mentors
Tell us about yourself!
Narell and Jennifer are early childhood educators who are passionate about helping children find their connection with the natural world and fostering a sense of awe and wonder that will grow into a sense of responsibility towards protecting our natural environment. We are both artists with experience in handcrafts, watercolour painting, botanical art, fibre art, and storytelling. We love to sing with children, and so art, song and story are entwined within all our experiences with children in nature. Nature and art are inseparable and as children love to explore their creative abilities within their environment we think its the best way to learn!
What is your favourite location for Bush Kinder?
The rainforest, the bush, the mountains, the wilderness, pretty gardens full of bugs and insects, birds and flowers.
What is your favourite story/experience?
Jennifer and Narell are both natural storytellers, we tell stories all day, we use traditional oral storytelling with a few props and have developed an approach toward learning called Ecological Storytelling. This comprises the stories of children’s own experiences and learning in nature through the medium of story. Our stories are seasonal, sometimes they are silly, sometimes they are therapeutic, sometimes they are old fairy tales or based on current events such as weather (floods or storms).
Have you experienced any situations that have influenced your approach to being an educator?
We learn every day from the children, we constantly reflect, we constantly evolve, we love nothing better than to change something that is not working for us or the children. We love the freedom we have created for the children to play, all day every day. We are their mentors, to guide them and they guide us through the day, and oh what blissful days we have. It is idyllic.
What do you enjoy most about being an educator?
We love being able to influence the next generation of children so that their fascination and love of nature and the outdoors and the world is normal. It is not novel or unique or an experience to them, it is their everything.
What do you find most difficult?
Being confined! Our greatest challenges so far have been restrictive community perceptions about children and nature play. When engaging in conversations with such notions about the value and safety of children playing in wild nature we refer to the tools we have to support us: the Early Years Learning Framework, the National Regulations, and a growing collection of research to inform our decisions, guide our practice and to find the freedom and possibilities to explore new ideas within early childhood.
What is your philosophy?
We believe children are capable beings who can have independence and positive personal growth at every stage of their development. From infancy onwards we trust in children’s ability to learn and we aim to provide an environment where children’s learning is supported, challenged, and celebrated. We believe that wild nature is the perfect environment to facilitate children’s learning, with multi-modal approaches through the arts.