Children and nature is a winning combination

Master of Teaching (Early Years) graduate Andrea Mercer, 25, has won the early childhood category of the prestigious Oxford Education Innovation Award 2013.

Andrea’s Secret Places in the Bush project celebrates native Australian plants and animals, and encourages children to explore bushland. It is an interactive and reflective powerpoint that takes children on a journey, exploring native trees and animals along the way.

Andrea says her work was inspired by the Westgarth Kindergarten bush kinder program held at Darebin parklands.

“I did a placement at Westgarth Kindergarten, where I took part in their bush kinder program,” she says. “It really inspired me, and showed me how important it is for children to learn and explore in the natural environment. There are endless learning opportunities in these settings. At bush kinder there are no routines – it is about individual creativity and discovery."

For Andrea, it is important children explore and learn about the natural environment.

“Urban children are becoming quite disconnected from nature, but the bush is really important for their emotional, cognitive and physical health,” she says. “It helps them learn about their world and their community and really engages them in imaginative play.”

Andrea is now qualified to teach in early years or primary settings. She is planning a trip to Europe, before looking for a job where she hopes to combine her passions for early childhood teaching and the environment.