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'That's why I don't miss Thursdays!': Aboriginal children's involvement in an outdoor learning project

Lee-Hammond, L.ORCID: 0000-0002-9699-7508 (2012) 'That's why I don't miss Thursdays!': Aboriginal children's involvement in an outdoor learning project. In: Early Childhood Australia National Conference: Consulting the Compass: Defining Directions, 3 - 6 October 2012, Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre, W.A.


This project explored the wellbeing and involvement of young Aboriginal children from classes K–2 in outdoor learning environments with an emphasis on culture and identity. We investigated children’s connection to ‘place’ as a means of preserving cultural identity and spirituality and enabling learning through play. The project took place one day a week for a school term, involving the children taking a bus to a local wetlands where an Elder provided them with a range of cultural activities. Indigenous children’s sense of cultural identity is known to have a bearing on their school-based achievement (Fleer and Williams-Kennedy, 2001; Kickett-Tucker, 2006). Elders felt that outdoor learning pedagogies best reflect traditional Aboriginal cultural practices of intergenerational sharing of cultural knowledge and spirituality. Consistent with the literature, initial and ongoing consultation with local Aboriginal Elders was necessary to frame the project (Martin, 2008; Wilson, 2008). The project used a range of qualitative methods: action-research underpinned by a reflective and collaborative process. Data collection methods included field notes, photographs, video footage, interviews and conversations with children, Elders and parents. Laevers (1994) Involvement Scales were used to document levels of involvement in the outdoor environment and at school. Twenty Noongar children, aged four–seven took part, substantially enhancing their levels of involvement compared to classroom-based learning experiences. Overall attendance at school increased by 40 per cent during the project implementation. During a conversation on one of the outdoor visits, a seven-year-old girl announced that she loved coming to the wetlands, saying: ‘That’s why I don’t miss Thursdays!’

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