Resources & Activities

Imagine a classroom without walls

A big part of going on regular nature explorations, is giving children the opportunity to become familiar with a location and learn about all of the ways it can be explored over time. Dr Anne Meade shares some valuable ideas to consider when embarking on developing your own nature-based learning program.

Outdoor Play
The World Around Us
Children rest on a bench as they climb a hill
Share with friends and colleagues:

A classroom without walls

The teaching team at Daisies in Wellington, New Zealand take children on weekly excursions to an area nearby that they reach by train. They call this part of their curriculum “Nature Explore” and as the name suggests, it is a time for children to explore natures offerings at Mount Kau Kau. This is the closest “mountain” to Daisies. 

Building a relationship with the land

The educators made the decision that rather than taking children to different locations each week to see and experience a variety of nature spaces, that they would keep returning to one particular location. This helps children to revisit their prior learning, to really get to know and build a relationship with the land, and to gain confidence as they explore all that Mount Kau Kau has to offer.

Luckily enough to join the teaching team on a “Nature Explore”, we noticed that the children were saying that on this particular day, they wanted to climb to the top of the mountain. So instead of visiting the same lookout or exploring in the stream they were familiar with, the children took us on a mission. We made it all the way to the top of the Mount and the children were very proud of themselves. This was the first time the group of four year olds had ever done this and it was exciting to see them looking out, seeing the windmills and the local landscape from a completely different perspective.

Intentional, not instructional

The passionate teaching team are not instructional when out in the bush with the children. They are however intentional, so may come with ideas of ways to introduce some new concepts while in the bush. Then if a child expresses curiosity, or stops, pauses, looks and wants to explore something, the teachers will pause and ask thoughtful questions.The questions designed to encourage the children to think on a deeper level, make new discoveries, come to conclusions and further their curiosity.

A birds eye view of the land

If you are lucky enough to have access to a wild space that offers children ways to explore and view different vantage points of the local area, this helps them develop an understanding of the local area. They will create maps in their heads. Over time, and through regularly visiting different lookouts in the area, the children at Daisies have developed a “map” of Wellington. An understanding of their local area and how it spreads further out and connects with the wider community.  

Exploring with their senses

Sensory exploration when out in nature is a powerful way to support children to observe their surroundings. This can look like:

  • Listening to the bird song
  • Smelling the air
  • Noticing the light, the shade, the shapes and colours
  • The difference in temperature between being out in the sun, and deep in the bush
  • Wind direction 
  • The different ways our bodies “feel” the weather

Being aware of some of the opportunities to encourage children to explore with their senses, will help you to prepare with some language to offer children around this. Reflecting on this, and being more conscious of the senses that we have as human beings, and passing this knowledge onto children to explore is a powerful tool to nurture curiosity and an awareness of all that nature offers us. 

Tips for educators who would like to launch their own ‘Nature Explore” program

  1. Simply put, just get going with it. Take the time to go into the wild spaces prior to taking children, and explore the paths and tracks. This will help you better prepare prior to going with children, and plan for any hazards you may encounter
  2. Do some reading and become familiar with interesting adventures you can have in the wilderness. Perhaps try and introduce one new concept or idea to children at a time, so that they can toss ideas about, hypothesize, develop curiosity, make new discoveries and appreciate nature
  3. In fall, this can be around why some leaves change colour and fall to the ground
  4. Bird watching etiquette - be like a rock and birds are more likely to stick around as you watch them
  5. Keeping track of the movements of the sun and its effects on shadows
  6. Consider that for some children, the word “forest” can be a bit frightening - a lot of popular fairy tales have forests where scarey things happen. What would be an appropriate word to use instead? The team at Daisies use the word “bush” but you may have other words you wish to use
  7. Build up your Nature Explore program slowly. Consider taking children out in groups depending on when they enrol. The team at Daisies start taking children out to visit less challenging places on Mount Kau Kau to begin with, when they are young and perhaps less confident. Over time, and with repeated visits, the children gradually build up their confidence and skills, and the team then begin to take them further into the bush on their visits. 
  8. Prior to children going on their first Nature Explore outing, their parents are invited to talk with the teaching team about the program. Parents are encouraged to join the group on their trips into the bush. This is especially important for their very first outing into the bush so that children not only have familiar teachers, but also a parent or grandparent with them. 


Anne Meade shares that going out into the bush every week with small groups of 8 children is an absolute privilege. To be able to solely focus on the children, listen to them, go with the flow of their imaginations and spend time learning alongside them that goes far beyond simply keeping them safe is really special. “This happens every week. We get to have this wonderful magical time with a group of children and get to know them in quite different ways. It’s very special.”

Reflective Questions and Prompts:

  • Are there any areas in your local area that could be possible sites for your nature exploration adventures?
  • What resources are available to you in your learning community? Do any families have a farm with space for you to explore? Are any family members rangers? Your community is a resource in itself so involve everyone in your planning
  • Risk assessment - A thorough risk assessment prior to taking children on outings is essential. Unsure where to start? Consider reaching out to local schools or early learning services who do regular outings in your area and ask if they are willing to share?

More resources:


Storypark makes it easy for your early childhood program to stay connected with families, ensuring important information is right at their fingertips.

Document and support children’s learning, together

Engage families in children’s development in your own private Storypark community

Try Storypark for free
An educator sits, playing with a child

Try Storypark today

Record and communicate learning as it happens by sharing photos, video, audio, observations and routines within a secure online environment. Receive instant feedback and plan new ways to extend children’s unique interests and abilities.

Try Storypark for free
An educator is outdoors looking at 3 children as they play

Get updates sent to your inbox

Thank you!
You'll receive updates and amazing resources from us!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.