For the last six and a half years Sam Crosby has been enriching the lives of children, carers and educators through the Centennial Parklands Education Precinct. She has developed new philosophies, created innovative programs and enabled more and more children to connect with nature, the bush and our unique Australian heritage.
We sat down with Sam to talk about her achievements and what we can expect from the future of education with Centennial Parklands.
What led you to work with Centennial Parklands?
I worked in the United Kingdom for 13 years and wanted to come home and bring the knowledge and skills I had learnt around nature education to our beautiful natural environment. I also wanted to move towards linking this learning to the learning processes and culture of Aboriginal Australia, which makes it very special and uniquely Australian.
You have a special interest in outdoor play as a learning tool, what is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned as an educator?
Observation, how it is better to sit back and observe the play rather than leading it or hovering over it, I use the hummingbird approach rather than the helicopter, scooting in when needed and then leaving once the kids are on track.
It is not easy to do as you really have to trust the skills of the kids to play within and around their own limits without interfering or helping and let them make their own mistakes and choose their own direction.
Too much as educators we lead the action and outdoor play should be the opposite of that.
You have been the driving force for the change of curriculum and offerings at the Parklands, can you explain what has changed?
We have moved from a more traditional environmental education model where the focus was more on scientific field work. Now we focus on connecting the hands, the heart and the mind to the nature around. Whereas before we had more of a focus on the acquisition of environmental knowledge and understanding.
You recently went overseas to learn more about forest schools – what are the top three things you took away from that?
- That we are on the right track in terms of our emerging practice here in Australia
- The importance of community support and understanding when developing and delivering nature education
- How much the cultural landscape and ecological diversity really influence the program (which is why we, here in Australia, are really trying hard to integrate Indigenous concepts and caring for country into our programs, and are trying to lay down Australian roots rather than European ones).
What is your favourite program at Centennial Parklands?
My favourite is probably any program where I get to stretch out and practice my storytelling. I love seeing how the story influences the imagination and play of the kids. It is a new practice for me and I am really enjoying becoming a part of the ancient tradition of oral storytelling and how much this enhances the nature play experience.
I also really love it when I get to go and play at Bush School – I have a great team of educators who usually run those programs but it can be enormous fun when I get a chance to get out and play.
What are some of the future plans for Bush Schools and Centennial Parklands’ education programs in general?
We are very excited about the opening of the Ian Potter Children’s Wild Play Garden later this year and how this will influence the rest of the programs we do. It is going to be amazing!