Learning in the great outdoors

The centre also provides support to teachers and schools in environmental education and sustainability studies. Leedham says he and his team assist teachers with delivering curriculum outcomes for a range of subject areas for K-12 students, with hands-on, fun and engaging learning experiences and activities.

Only 70 per cent of student learning from WNPEEC occurs onsite. The remaining time is spent visiting schools across the state, running workshops with students and professional development for teachers, with a particular focus on inquiry learning, fieldwork, eSTEM and the new geography and science syllabi.

One of the initiatives overseen by WNPEEC, a program for young leaders, was designed to develop student leaders in rural and remote schools where connection to the land holds immense significance. Leedham says there’s a focus on co-teaching with local Coonabarabran schools to engage students in the natural environment and, simultaneously, the local Gomeroi Indigenous culture.

For other teachers who want to connect their students with nature in a meaningful way, Leedham’s first piece of advice is to contact a NSW Environmental and Zoo Education Centre. Beyond that, he says a lot of schools have an element of green space – either onsite or adjacent – and it’s valuable to get out of the classroom and let students just explore.

“It all goes back to wellbeing,” Leedham says. “When kids are out in nature and immersed, their wellbeing goes up. If you can balance that time spent outside with teaching the curriculum, you can see the shift in them.”


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