This blog is a series of extracts from the recent publication “Gaia (Earth) Education Philosophy® – a journey back to the future”, by founders Dr Darius Singh and Nikeeta Singh, who were invited to present this at:
The International Conference for Education, Research and Innovation, Seville, Spain, Nov 2018
The International Conference for Future Learning, Barcelona, Spain, Dec 2018
World Forum on Early Care and Education, Macau, China, Apr 2019
AGU100 – Advancing Earth & Space Sciences, “Engaging Preschoolers in Earth and Space Sciences”, USA, Dec 2019
In more recent decades, a wave of connectivity with Nature, Organic or Earth based alternative products has swept over multiple industries around the world such as medical, pharmaceutical, agricultural, food, energy, engineering, materials science, neuroscience, and architecture as the following examples illustrate:
A real problem facing children today, perhaps for the first time in human history, is that they are becoming more and more detached from the natural world and losing an intimate understanding and connectivity with the planet. With city/urban planning around the world driven to optimise land, subdivide properties, and build sky-high apartments, the once known concept of a “backyard” to play in is rapidly disappearing. In his book, “Last Child in the Woods”, Richard Louv discusses what he calls “Nature Deficit Disorder”, while Professor Jane Clark from University of Maryland, USA, has coined an expression “Containerized Kids” in her recent research in kinesiology (the study of human movement).
But is it really our children’s fault that some don’t know where carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, cheese and even milk comes from (as revealed in a British Nutrition Foundation study of 27,000 children aged between 5-16 years). Is it really their fault that they have been born into a time of an overwhelming “consumer age” in which we as a species are consuming and wasting at a rate 300% higher than the last generation? Is it also their fault that they have been born into the most demanding “hybrid age” in which digital technology is ubiquitous in their lives, and especially in the preschool and youth years, becoming a root cause for a range of medical, social and development issues?
“…children need to simply spend more time outdoors and learn from Nature not just about it…”, (Nikeeta Singh and Dr Darius Singh)
We believe that while technological advances and developments for a safer, healthier, cleaner, easier, more productive, creative and tolerant society are all firm goals we should all be working towards, we also know that we can not continue along our trajectory without providing a critical balance in the minds of our young children. This balance we seek is an affinity, appreciation, respect, connection and basic understanding of Nature and Earth’s eco-systems and how everything is connected to everything else. Basically we are saying that “children need to simply spend more time outdoors and learn from Nature not just about it!”(Nikeeta Singh and Dr Darius Singh). Looking at the state of the planet’s depleting resources, dying populations and species (1000X faster than expected), destruction of rainforests, pollution and waste, surely any further progress in civilisation needs to be done better than how we have been doing it to date? And whose turn will it be to inherit all of these problems (no fault of their own), while relying on their own judgements, values, experiences and connectivity with the planet when they become guardians of influence in 20 years’ time – our “Nature-Deficit-Disordered” and “Containerised” preschoolers?!
Perhaps arising from our depleting natural resources, or our highest ever levels of consumption and waste by all 7 billion of us, or an irreversible set of recent actions causing destruction and devastation in parts of the planet, a realisation has come about across all industry sectors that certain clues and directions and even answers to our modern civilisation’s problems may already exist in our 4.6 billion year old Earth. After all, Earth has had all this time to constantly evolve and improve processes, develop complex networks for life to interconnect with and survive, adapt environments, test its resilience, perseverance, patience, and create innovative solutions. So why wouldn’t we want to follow its lead in education, like the engineers, surgeons, architects, agriculturalists, nutritionists, scientists and product designers are currently “bio-mimicking” from billions of years of trials, errors and proven solutions (as shown above)?
We became inspired to research into our Education industry and search for a similar connectivity in teaching and learning as various educational philosophies and approaches have done over the past 5000 years. In doing so over the last decade, creating four unique childcare centres, and receiving 12 national awards and recognition along our journey, we have gradually tested and blended the approaches of ancient cultures via story-telling techniques with more recent 60-100 year old theories of Reggio Emilia (Italy), Montessori (Italy), Waldorf (Germany), Pikler (Europe/USA), Forest movement (Denmark), and Friluftsliv (Scandinavia). What has emerged is a set of principles and delivery framework for educational and life-lesson outcomes for children and teachers that can be connected with Earth itself.
We call this the “Gaia (Earth) Education Philosophy®” which is a complete immersion of our principles and practices into “Earth inspired environments, buildings, operations, teaching, learning, values, curriculum & outcomes for children“. This “full spectrum” approach values all existing education philosophies, theories and approaches as mentioned above, and encourages to deepen teaching and learning where appropriate via visible connectivity, affiliation and reflection with Nature and Earth systems.
Our developed Sub-Principles over the past decade (alongside) serve as anchoring guides for what we believe is important for a life-long journey of learning, adaptation, development and growth for your child.
Our delivery framework mimics the Earth’s delivery system for life itself:
1) an external atmosphere (i.e. learning environment),
2) an internal grounded platform (i.e. day to day curriculum activities and outcomes), and
3) an inner core (i.e. core values that light up the passion deep inside our teachers and centres).
With the guiding sub-principles and delivery framework (above), here is what we have been creating over the last 12 years in our centres to actually demonstrate what we mean by delivering the “full spectrum” of Gaia (Earth) inspired education.
This delivery mode is quite simply about fundamental decisions at the earliest outset when designing and bringing a vision of an ECE centre to life. It is when critical decisions need to be made of investing in learning spaces, functions and visual reflections, that are inspired by Nature and Earth’s eco-systems. For example:
a) Outdoor environments that create an experience of belonging to a natural, ecologically cycling, seasonal world…
b) Centres, schools, classrooms, spaces that model biomimicry with:
- natural ventilation systems (self breathing),
- solar power systems (self energising),
- rainwater harvesting systems (self replenishing),
- earth heating (self regulating),
- intelligent systems (self managing),
- recycling systems (self sustaining), etc…
c) Other design elements inside buildings, classrooms or playgrounds that reflect a respect for or an attribute of Nature…
This is the groundwork, the day to day activities in a centre’s curriculum where teachers look for and find opportunities to express, emphasise, evaluate and exemplify learnings and outcomes through examples found from Earth. It is also an introduction to a life long fascination of the world of Earth Sciences; from a single leaf to how entire forest eco-systems work; from a drop of water to entire oceans and weather patterns; from a pebble to entire mountain ranges. It is also about those precious moments in time, when the grass-roots “internal” delivery of Gaia (Earth) inspired education is happening between a teacher and a child, that can be treasured, absorbed and taken with them throughout their life-long learning journey.
No-one does this better and more directly than over 3000 “forest preschools” around the world as shown alongside. Originating in Denmark in the 1950’s, there are a growing number of “farm”, “bush kindy” and “forest preschool” based ECE centres in NZ too, and some who continue to inspire us are:
- Ako Space,
- Apples Childcare and Learning Centre,
- Back2Nature Childcare,
- Birchville Kindergarten,
- Campbells Bay ELC,
- Children’s Garden,
- Chrysalis ELC,
- Conscious Kids,
- Country Bears Nature Childcare,
- Fantails Country,
- Farm Friends,
- Fern Garden Preschool,
- Fiordland Kindergarten Nature Discovery,
- Forest School,
- Gaia (Earth) Forest Preschool NZ,
- Gems Educational Childcare – Farm School,
- Green School NZ,
- Harriette Vine Kindergarten,
- He Manu Hou ECE,
- Little Kiwi Nature Play,
- Loving Care Kindergarten,
- Magic Kingdom Childcare,
- Nature Kids Motueka,
- Nature School,
- New Shoots Pakuranga outdoor programme,
- Newstead Country Preschool,
- Ngā Tamariki o Te Tai Ao (Children of the Natural World),
- Old Macdonald’s Country Kindy,
- Open Spaces Preschool,
- Organic Kids,
- Play and Learn programmes,
- Pohutukawa ELC,
- Plimmerton Kindergarten,
- Puaka Bush School,
- Raumati South Kindergartens,
- Roskill South Kindergarten,
- Southland Kindergarten Association,
- Sunshine Kindergarten,
- Teal Valley Forest Kindergarten Programme,
- The DEN (Discover Education in Nature),
- Timbernook Hawkes Bay,
- Waikanae Kindergarten,
- Waikino School.
and many more schools that are part of the Enviro-schools programme.
This mode rests at the heart of it all – the “Qualities” or “Traits” or “Attributes” of a childcare centre, preschool, kindergarten, play centre or school and how these are all displayed with connectivity to Nature/Earth. Some examples that centres may promote would be Resilience, Innovative thinking, Sustainability, Empowerment, Balance, Respect, Nurture, Connectedness, Adaptability, Guardianship, Continuous Improvement, etc. These traits may already be visibly promoted in a centre or school, and they can reach a Gaia (Earth) inspired level when references and resources are shown regularly to children through the curriculum, connecting the fact that Nature has always been illustrating that same attribute, quality or trait for billions of years longer than any of our centres’ or school’s dozens of years!!
Whether you are inspired by any philosophy like Reggio Emilia, Montessori, Rudolf Steiner, RIE, Pickler, Friluftsliv, Community, etc, it is the deepening and extension of all outcomes and values to connect with Earth Systems, that is what Gaia inspired education is all about. In addition to “core” and “external” delivery modes, it is also about those precious moments in time, when the grass-roots “internal” delivery of Gaia (Earth) inspired education is happening between a teacher and a child, that can be treasured, absorbed and taken with them throughout their life-long learning journey. With all the elements of the principles and delivery modes in place, any centre can transform towards becoming a more sustainable, eco-friendly, nature aligned, and Gaia (Earth) inspired place of teaching and learning to achieve lifelong outcomes for children …. and create a future of survival for them that we are all hoping for.
Our centres in Auckland NZ, and our friendship centres in Australia, USA, Canada and Sweden showcase the Gaia (Earth) Education Philosophy®, Principles and Practices. This is exclusively through Gaia Education and Development (GAIA ED).
Spend 1 day, 3 days or 5 days on a fully immersed study tour/retreat and hear our past, present and future story that has created the Gaia (Earth) based approach. Let us take you on our journey and show you more examples and more precious moments of actual teaching and learning that can easily transform any childcare centre into a Gaia (Earth) inspired childcare centre.
- When: (Currently postponed due to COVID) Tours are open for anyone around the world and occur in different countries and at different seasons of the year so that you can experience all environments and views of teaching and learning under a Gaia (Earth) Education Philosophy context.
- Where: at Gaia-inspired® centres in NZ, Australia, USA, Canada, Sweden.
- Who: for all Parents, ECE Teachers, Primary Teachers, Educational Leaders, Managers, Academics, ECE Students and ECE Business Owners
- Cost: for details contact Gaia Education and Development (GAIA ED)
- Nov 2019 – Education Gazette Article about our Gaia (Earth) Philosophy®, Principles and Practices by NZ Ministry of Education
- Oct 2019 – TV3 interview on the AM Show with our co-founder and director, Dr Darius Singh
- Oct 2019 – Radio NZ interview about our Gaia (Earth) Education Philosophy and new Gaia (Earth) Preschool in Manurewa
- Oct 2019 – NZ Academic to Speak at Largest Space Science Conference. Find out how we are exciting our preschoolers into Earth Sciences via our new Gaia (Earth) Education Philosophy
- Oct 2019 – Education HQ News Article about our Director, “NZ ECE science expert to address delegates at world’s largest Earth and space science conference”
- Nov 2018 – NZ Herald – ‘Gaia-inspired®’ childcare centre proposed in South Auckland
- Nov 2018 – NZ Academic Unveils Details of World First Childcare Centre
- Nov 2018 – Chrysalis Founders Dr. Darius Singh and Nikeeta Singh Propose “Gaia-Inspired®” Pre-School in South Auckland
- Nov 2018 – The Sector Australia: World first concept in ECEC design announced this week
- What drives us, with “Our personal story, philosophy and values”
- See what “Our typical day” looks like
- Call us at 0508 PRESCHOOL to check on our waiting lists
- Visit one of our award winning child care centres nearest to you to see it all for yourself.