The birth of a school – The Nature School Primary

Ms Catherine Oehlman1
1The Nature School, Port Macquarie, Australia


The Nature School Primary opened its doors in 2018 to 22 students from Kindergarten to Year 2. In 2020, the school has 60 enrolments from Kindergarten to Year 4 and has a growing waitlist. Under Catherine’s leadership, teachers at The Nature School Primary follow NSW Syllabus documents for the Australian Curriculum, while meeting outcomes in less traditional ways. Fortnightly “Adventure Days” allow students to learn beyond the mudbrick school building, and the beach or the bush become the ultimate classroom.

Catherine has significant experience in Primary curriculum and design, and has particular expertise in English Curriculum. She has written for a range of publications online and off, presented at conferences, reviewed countless picture books, and built a strong social media following online (@naturesquiggle). Currently studying for her Masters in Children’s Literature, she advocates for the use of quality Australian literature in Australian classrooms, and inspires students to write creatively and confidently. She is also a published children’s poet, writing almost exclusively about Australian wildlife and environments.

Catherine is frequently in the media talking about The Nature School, including a recent feature article in Australian Geographic magazine which is quite possibly the highlight of her career to date.

The birth of a school is an incredible thing. It is at times painful, often messy, and occasionally breathtaking. Join Catherine Oehlman, Head of The Nature School Primary, as she shares her experience of birthing a school. In this brief presentation, she will outline some of the challenges she has overcome to see the school triple its enrolments in its first three years, and her vision for the future. She will inspire you to rethink school, and challenge every educator to take learning outdoors every day.

Catherine Oehlman is the founding Head of The Nature School Primary in Port Macquarie. She is a self confessed bird-nerd, passionate about connecting children with habitats in their local environment and the flora and fauna found there (particularly those with feathers).

About OEA and Outdoors NSW

Outdoor Education Australia (OEA)  was established in 2006 as a national network of outdoor education associations. The organisation facilitates communication between state and territory outdoor education associations about the practice and delivery of outdoor education; advocates for outdoor education across primary, secondary and tertiary education; and provides policy advice.

Outdoors NSW is the go-to place for all things outdoors in NSW.

The peak body for the outdoors in NSW, the organisation, (formerly known as ORIC), represents the outdoor community, advances outdoor standards, safety and practices, and fosters greater participation in the outdoors.

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