What really happens in a WILD PLAY Garden and how does it relate to outdoor learning?

Ms Sam Crosby1, Ms Julie Regalado2
1Botanic Gardens and Centennial Parklands, Sydney, Australia; 2Centre for Education Research, Western Sydney University, Kingswood, Australia


In 2017, Centennial Parklands opened the first state-of-the-art WILD PLAY Garden for NSW, The Ian Potter Children’s WILD PLAY Garden. Since then it has won seven awards including Australia’s best place space, and received over 400,000 visits making it one of the most visited spaces in Centennial Park.

To find out what happens in this space to children, families and community, we engaged with the Western Sydney University to undertake a mixed method research project. The research has engaged over 200 participants with the aim to examine the play space’s inclusivity, diversity, physical literacy, nature connection and to gain an understanding of the overall benefits.

In this presentation we will discuss:

• research methodology
• disseminate the research results
• understand who visits and what really happens when people visit the Garden
• Discuss a small case study within the research process on the garden’s inclusivity and how it engaged a group of special needs students from a local school
• Why nature play spaces like the WILD PLAY garden and important for formal and informal outdoor learning
• Provide feedback and learnings for those who are thinking of developing their own nature play spaces

Learning outcomes:
• What are the most effective methods to researching the benefits and values of a nature play space
• What are then benefits of visiting a nature play space for children, families and communities
• Who and why do people visit nature play spaces?
• What outdoor skills do people acquire when visiting a children’s garden?

Julie Regalado has more than 30 years experience teaching people of all ages in formal and non-formal environments in Australia and the USA. With an MFA in Dance and an M.Ed in Social Ecology she is particularly interested in how we foster meaningful, experiential learning opportunities throughout life, cognisant of the interconnected nature of all. She currently teaches at Western Sydney University in Social Ecology and is an active team member of the Anthropocene Transition, a community group based in Sydney which explores what it means to be worthy ancestors in these uncertain times.

Sam Crosby B.Ed (Art) M.Ed (Social Ecology)
Sam Crosby is the Coordinator of Education and Community Programs at Centennial Parklands. She is a passionate and experienced outdoor educator, trainer and social ecologist with an expertise in nature pedagogy, place based education and sustainability. She has worked both in Australia and internationally.
In 2013, Sam co-authored and developed Australia’s first VET training program for early childhood practitioners in partnership with Sydney TAFE. ’Early Years Bush Connections’ has trained over a hundred educators with the skills, knowledge and attitude to take their children out the gate and into the bush.
In 2016 she was the recipient of a Botanic Gardens Foundation and Friend’s scholarship where she travelled to Denmark and the UK where she visited nature kindergartens and experienced woodland mentoring practices.
Her favourite bird is the Butcher Bird.

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.

    Conference Managers

    Please contact the team at Conference Design with any questions regarding the conference.
    © 2020 Conference Design Pty Ltd