Beyond the Fence – extending children’s experiences outdoors

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Kylie Keane headshot

Beyond The Fence™ is a program offered at Forrest Out Of School Hours Care (FOOSHC) in Canberra where children play outdoors, build cubbies, climb trees, excavate the creek, have mud  and water fights and relax outdoors. Kylie Keane, Educational Leader at FOOSHC, shares her story. 

More than 100 children have ventured Beyond The Fence™ which takes place in a small, yet spacious nature strip adjacent to Forrest Primary School. These children all continue to amaze each and every one of the dedicated group of educators who work with them.

The program started in 2014 and is roughly based on the concepts of Nature Kindergartens and Forest Schools in the United Kingdom. It acknowledges the Playwork Principles and advocates for what the principles suggest play should be:

Play is a process that is freely chosen, personally directed and intrinsically motivated. That is, children and young people determine and control the content and intent of their play, by following their own instincts, ideas and interests, in their own way for their own reasons. See more on the Playwork Principles fact sheet

While the ideas of reconnecting children with nature are still prevalent, the underpinning philosophy of Beyond The Fence™ is children experiencing I did it moments; the first time they manage to light a fire, climb into a tree, or saw through a piece of wood. The program allows for risk taking and exploration, promotes an attachment to nature and the land, facilitates play and problem solving and develops survival, resilience and self-regulation skills.

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We are often asked how a program like this is possible. What about the regulations? How do you manage the risks? In the beginning we took advice and guidance from a number of industry experts, and all the educators underwent training with the educational leader before facilitating the experiences.

There is nothing in the regulations that prohibits children from enjoying these types of experiences or us as educators facilitating them. It is about striking the right balance and weighing up the risks versus the benefits. Many Benefit Risk Assessments were penned before the pilot program, however it was the children’s contributions along the way that made these documents so valuable. The team of educators view children as capable, competent and active participants in all aspects of the program, and as such, the relationships that have formed are one of the most rewarding aspects of this amazing journey.

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Family information sessions also contribute to the success of the program. We share not only the who, what, where and how but also the why with families and in turn they are our biggest advocates.

Beyond The Fence™ helped two children work through what had been a relationship fraught with bullying; to the point where one of the families was going to move their child to another school. The program gave them a reason to stay and saw the two boys graduate to high school as mates.

Beyond The Fence™ provides so many children, and educators alike, a place to play, take risks, explore the land and their identity, and to simply be.

3 thoughts on “Beyond the Fence – extending children’s experiences outdoors”

  1. Congratulations on having the vision, courage and energy to inject life and joy into this care program!

  2. How inspiring! This program reflects my beliefs about childhood, natural learning and connectedness to nature. I really like the way you emphasized the importance of the educators having training in natural learning, the value of engagement in the outdoors and the core values of the educators viewing children as capable. Great to view the Play Works principles too thanks. I am also an advocate for the benefits of risk taking and the importance of reciprocal relationships with families. Would love to visit your service sometime in the future. Maybe plan a trip for our Tasmanian educators to visit. . . . .that would be great.
    Thanks for sharing and for providing children with a rich learning experience, you make me proud to be an educator. We do have an amazing job and can make a positive difference in the lives of young children and connectedness to the great outdoors.

  3. This is great! Our preschool is lucky to have a large park next to us and we have our own program called ‘Outside the Gate’ where we regularly visit the park for games, explore the natural environment and connecting our children to an environment that isn’t as controlled as a soft-fall playground.

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