Kia ora, this is me! It is my vision for Good Natured Education to "ignite love, connection and appreciation" for nature, therefore I feel that is important for me to share my story of how I came to this exciting and scary (just how it should be) step in my life, developing Good Natured Education's workshops for teachers of NZ.
As a teenager and going on after I left high school, I struggled to pinpoint what is was that was calling my name, what was my purpose, and what I really enjoyed doing. Growing up I spent a lot of time in the school holidays with my cousin, who I shared a sister-like friendship with. I remember our childhood as full of adventures with lots of exploration, risk taking, discovery and creativity.
Our family, The Clode's have a special little crib (holiday home) in the little seaside community of Colac Bay, 40 mins drive from my home town, Invercargill. For me the memories are fond, with days spent playing freely in the paddocks, down at the swamp or creek, or down the road at the beach swimming, collecting treasures or searching for marine life in the rock pools. My cousins and I would stay out playing, until we got called in for meals, a memory also shared by my dad, aunties and uncles in their childhood too. When reflecting on our play it reminds me of the power of the imagination, and how as children something that now quite clearly is a simple mound of dirt, could be in the child's eyes "treasure island" or that macrocarpa pine cones can become meatballs for your play kai.
When not at Colac Bay, my cousin and I spent time learning to sew with our Nana. A skill and creative outlet that is a dying art. I dedicated my high school years to applying this creativity into fashion design, entering a few competitions, designing and selling ball gowns and going on to study Fashion Design at the Southern Institute of Technology. Yet this wasn't for me. It was an interest and a hobbie, but not my true passion.
After a year of exploring other job or career paths I decided to give relieving at some preschools a go. I knew that I loved a challenge and that I was adaptable and eager to learn, but really had no idea what I was getting myself into. I had no idea that it would turn out to be exactly where I needed to be. With a 6 months relieving under my belt I was encouraged to begin study by a supportive Centre Manager. So I decided to take a risk. Fast forward a few months and I had been awarded a study scholarship, and moved to Queenstown to start my new life as a Teacher in Training. The risk I took to uproot my life was immensely rewarding as it was an opportunity to learn more about myself and develop some new roots in Queenstown, which is now where I call home.
I spent 5 years in Queenstown before deciding it was time to take another risk... this one slightly bigger but even more rewarding than the last. On 2nd August 2014, I embarked on a 2 year, almost a kiwi right of passage, northern hemisphere overseas experience aka "OE". I based myself in London, landing a super empowering and rewarding job at Foxfield Primary School in Woolwich, SE London. The school was undergoing some rapid and intense improvements to meet government standards which meant for me, a workload, commitment level and hustle like never before. It was hard, it was challenging, but it was without a doubt what has given me strong foundations and positive professional habits for teaching and leadership moving forward.
In this role as Nursery Lead (3/4 year olds) it became quite apparent to me that the children in my class, and without a doubt the rest of the school, had very little understanding of the natural world, with most children being hesitant, unsure or unwilling to get dirty. This brought me to a pivot point in my teaching career. As I reflected on the differences between kiwi kids, our culture and the kids of London, well particularly this area, I began to reflect on my childhood experiences and how the experiences I had as a child to engage on a physical, social and emotional level with the natural world, had made me the person I am today. I felt a monumental shift in my teaching on that day, and it became clear that my mission while these children were in my class for the year, was to show them what a beautiful world we live in... outside of the brick walls, apartments or tower blocks most were confined to. And as a team, that's exactly what we did!
Each planning cycle/term had an underpinning natural world focus that enable us to unveil the beauty of the world igniting curiosity, awe & wonder. We brought recycling and creative repurposing initiatives and projects into the classroom, we went on community walks, and embarked on an unheard of mission to the London Science Museum. I was fortunate to be accepted to study a Forest School Leader qualification which then lead me to developing an on school site Urban Forest School. This was by far the most effective and rewarding experience for the children was our visits to our newly established Urban Forest School. Our Forest School was located on-site, and was a simple fenced, grass area with a couple of trees... far from a forest. Yet the opportunities for growth and development we witness were incredible, this was true experiential learning where and when it matters most, that first 1000 days.
When my time had come to return back to New Zealand, there were alot of mixed feelings. I swayed backwards and forwards in the decision making process and wish I knew a decision making method that I know now... the win win method. Simply put, this method encourages you to look at a decision as both options providing you with "goodies" to be collected along the way, and that either direction you choose will bring you experiences you can grow and learn from. The risk to come back to New Zealand meant leaving the life I had built in London behind (I'm sure a lot of kiwi's can resonate here), but it opened up a whole new world of possibilities and opportunities for me to apply all that I had learnt and all that I had become, back into the New Zealand teaching environment.
Since being back in New Zealand I have spent more time at Colac Bay, where I now feel so strongly connected to after my aha moments during times of reflection on my childhood. I have explored the area with more purpose; to learn more about the land, it's history and our whanau heritage. I have listened to stories from my Grandad about our family first settling in Colac Bay in the early 1800's, my great grandfathers involvement in land negotiations with Maori and his involvement with roading developments and I have revisited the flax growing in the swamp with a bicultural lens. It has been a wild and lively journey for me thus far, and one that has driven me to find a true passion within my teaching. This passion I have been able to put into practice through my unique role as Farm School Coordinator for Gem's Educational Childcare, where I currently provide opportunities for 4 groups of 12 4 year olds to experience a program that is Forest School inspired yet infused with Kiwi culture.
It is with this, I welcome you all to Good Natured Education, where I share my vision to "ignite love, connection and appreciation for nature" in the hope that you too can find and live your purpose while using nature as a tool for teaching our growing generations and passing on our values, history, skills and knowledge. If you have any questions, queries or want to know more, please get in touch.