By CELA on 3 May, 2017

Each Raw & Unearthed PLAY session begins with the group coming together to connect. For us, building a connection is more than just connecting to the space. The connection we promote travels deeper. It entwines respect, knots together acknowledgment and ties us to the history of the land and its people.

As we sit together in a circle with our hands touching the earth we acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land and pledge to respect everyone and everything we come into contact with whilst we are playing in the space:

Here at Raw & Unearthed Play

Up on Kincumba Mountain

We would like to say thank you to the Darkinjung peoples,

For letting us share their land.

We promise to look after it,

The birds,

The snakes,

The trees,

And the people too.

With our hands, our hearts and our heads.

Research indicates (Broom,C) that when children have regular access to a natural/wild space, one in which they love and form a relationship with, they are more likely to adopt and carry these positive environmental attitudes and behaviours into their adulthood lives. With this in mind it is hoped that these children, now and in the future will fight for and protect nature and the environment at large.

Childhood is all about discovery, finding new places and the excitement of oh so many firsts. Stopping to smell the daisies, watching the light dance through the leaves on a tree or chasing your shadow in the afternoon sun, all play a pivotal role in a child’s education.

It’s our responsibility to channel our inner child to respond to (what may seem like) the little things. Dance in the rain, get muddy, get outdoors and break those routines! It provides opportunity for them to make meaning of the world as they observe, investigate and test theories. Outside in an unhurried environment that’s free from over scheduling, along with our trust and support, a child’s natural urges and curiosities will kick in and their imagination will take the lead.

Armed with nothing but a stick and an unleashed imagination a child is free to become a master of their own learning. With all their senses ignited by

the feeling of the grass on their feet,

the sun glistening on a dewy spiders web

and the laughter of the kookaburras from the tree tops

the learning is real. It’s hard to lose!

Their imagination sticks because they’ve touched it with their hands, been motivated by their curiosities and climbed it with their bodies. It’s been experienced – together – and the excitement of this learning has intertwined it into their hearts and brains as beautiful memories.

Each week we introduce a provocation which may simply be a new tool, such as a variety of mirrors that will invite a child to explore the outdoors from a new perspective.

Our intention is to inspire, challenge and assist the children to build upon their skills. Of course we know children have the best ideas when it comes to play, this is why our sessions are unstructured and our provocations are inspirations for play, not adult led group activities. Over time, as you introduce outdoor experiences, you will find that children are able to resource, extend and enhance their own play.

For instance, we provide an assortment of rope, hacksaws, binoculars, magnifying glasses, pocket knives and torches and the children choose how they extend their play ideas naturally.

Some children love to be accessorised and will deck themselves out with one of everything, and others will rarely use the tools and will equip themselves with nature’s wonders around them such as, rocks for grinding and crushing or bark to dig in the earth.

The Early Years Learning Framework, (EYLF),(2009) suggests that children bring their sense of being to their learning (p.33). As educators it’s important that we recognise the many different ways children see the world and act to support the multitude of ways children process learning.

When working with children we are there to support them to push through barriers, think about alternative strategies and provide them with an abundance of time to think, reflect, process, understand, negotiate and hypothesis. Answers don’t need to found in a day!

The beauty of working with children in a mixed age setting means you observe co-construction of knowledge and skills unfolding naturally. Scaffolding happens by both the older and younger peers, as an educator you become attuned to when you are and are not needed to support. The younger children will spend large amounts of time closely watching and observing how the older children work in their play. This interaction often pulls the younger children up to a level they would otherwise not have explored, yet (Vygotsky).

After spending weeks observing older children engage using the saws we observed a young toddler pick up a saw for the first time. He asked for assistance to put on safety gear including gloves and goggles and then found his own quiet space where time was spent testing out his own ideas and interpretations; including, holding the stick still with his foot and persevering through the challenge of getting into the rhythm of the saw.

When the balance of power is shifted and children are empowered to be co-constructors and decision makers of their learning, they become the agents of their explorations. When provided with opportunities to collaborate with their educators or parents, this opens up doors of possibility for you (as an educator) to leap beyond your preconceived understandings of children and what they ‘know’ and ‘can do’. It’s up to you!

You have the power to open the doors and get outside. You have the power to enable the children opportunities to play and show you that they are so much more capable than the rainbow teddy sorting game that you have ever so neatly set up on the table with matching coloured sorting bowls. Children deserve more.

More time. More trust. More authenticity. More nature!


Broom, C. Exploring the Relationships Between Childhood Experiences in Nature and Young Adults’ Environmental Attitudes and Behaviours. Australian Journal of Environmental Education, 2017;33(01):34 DOI:

McLeod, S. A. (2014). Lev Vygotsky. Retrieved from

The Early Years Learning Framework (PDF). Australian Government Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations for the Council of Australian Governments. Retrieved 30 March 2017.

About CELA

Community Early Learning Australia is a not for profit organisation with a focus on amplifying the value of early learning for every child across Australia - representing our members and uniting our sector as a force for quality education and care.

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