Petition asking for rule change to allow 'bush kindies' breaks 5000 mark

More than 5200 people have now signed a petition asking the Government to change the rules to allow full time bush-based early childhood education programmes.

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Celia Hogan says current guidelines require indoor space for students – but that space is not necessary for a bush classroom. Source: Breakfast

Nature-based early childhood programmes involve kids being taken out into natural areas where they learn, play and grow in a non-artificial setting, spending a majority of their time outside.

The law currently says early childhood education programmes must have a dedicated indoor space of at least 2.5 metres for each child, along with the various amenities and conditions deemed best for kids' learning.

However, Little Kiwis Nature Play founder Celia Hogan told 1 NEWS over the weekend that such facilities are redundant in a fully bush-based kindy programme, and the law needs to change.

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Bush kindergartens are growing in popularity overseas and educators here are asking whether NZ should support the practice. Source: 1 NEWS

The petition asking the Government to change the 2008 regulations has now reached more than 5200 signatures, with Ms Hogan asking anyone who supports the idea to feel free to sign also.

Speaking this morning to TVNZ1's Breakfast programme, Ms Hogan said she understands kids need shelter from the elements, and that will be provided by the programmes as necessary, but said kids are more resilient than many expect.

"We're not saying that we don't want any shelter - shelter is very useful - but children dress appropriately, they dress for the weather in these bush kindergarten," she said.

"When they are comfortable, warm they will spend the whole day outside playing."

Ms Hogan says many kids have become cotton wool-wrapped, so to say, and that they learn best in the outdoors.

"There's lots of contributing factors - media coverage of children going missing, parents get a little bit scared, health and safety legislation, so we are wrapping our children in cotton wool," she said.

"If they're going to build resilience, they have to have some experiences where they get to test themselves, they get to assess their own risks.

"When they are doing that they are actually learning about themselves and they are going, 'Oh, I am actually capable, I can do this,' and a bush kindergarten is a great place for that to happen."

Ms Hogan said such programmes build confidence and self esteem and that there is research suggesting it may lead to improved academic results later in life.

She said depending on how this petition goes, she may even look into whether or not outdoor learning principles could also be implemented in primary schools.