HOT: Outdoor Escapades Forest School, Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne
Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne is a wonderful place to explore nature and engage in nature play. They also run special programming for families during the year and especially during school holidays that provide kids with the opportunity to immerse themselves in nature.
Outdoor Escapades: A Forest School Adventure for Families, is a regular program for kids aged 8+ years to experience a hands-on workshop designed with the principles of leading international Forest Schools.
We start our day at Gate A, corner of Alexandra Avenue and Anderson Avenue. We then do a short ice breaker activity which is fun but doesn’t really help any of us remember anyone’s name as the group is quite large – probably around 25 children and accompanying adults.
The group takes a stroll through Long Island in the Lower Yarra River Habitat area. Despite living in Melbourne for decades I’ve never visited this part of the gardens! It features a collection from five local Indigenous plant communities.
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We then head up the hill to ‘Base Camp’, set up beneath a huge fig tree. There we find a couple of saw horses and low work tables and are given instructions on how to saw, whittle and drill wood using hand drills.
An hour from the beginning of the session, we are finally able to get hands-on with the activities. I’ve never seen kids get so excited by sawdust!
Kids are tasked with creating something from their imagination using the provided wood and tools. They are invited to stretch their limits, try new things, make mistakes and engage in risky, challenging play to encourage healthy growth and development.
Lady AB decides to make a small bag tag and the process is deceptively laborious. First, she saws a branch (with much huffing and puffing), sands it down, then drills a hole (with more huffing and puffing) before threading some string and fastening the tag to her bag. It makes me appreciate why handmade goods are so expensive!
The last part of the session is building a fire using flints and steels. However, after two hours of activity, Lady AB is ready to leave so we miss it.
Outdoor Escapades is a fun way to get everyone off their electronic devices and into the great outdoors. Plus given we’re not really a woodworking/tinkering family it’s a unique opportunity for my city-slicker kid to experiment with hand tools and to learn new skills.
However, I feel that a 2-hour session is enough. Some parts of the morning are quite meandering and feel a bit undirected and it is frustrating not to be able to start making until an hour in.
Outdoor Escapades: A Forest School Adventure for Families runs periodically in the school holidays and weekends of the school term. Sign up to the Royal Botanic Gardens newsletter to keep informed of the next sessions.
When you’re visiting the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne also go to the Ian Potter Children’s Garden
Click here for my review of the Royal Botanic Gardens Cranbourne
For more nature play check out Parks Victoria’s program Junior Rangers
- Bring a water bottle, snacks and lunch.
- Wear appropriate clothing for weather conditions and appropriate footwear.
- Minimum age is 8 years
- Free Parking along Alexandra Avenue on weekends
- Tram stops are at the end other side of the gardens, along St Kilda Road
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