South Africa to Eidsvold Kindy
WORLD-renowned early childhood education consultant Niki Buchan is disturbed that children under five in Australia are now prescribed anti-depressants.
"Why are our children struggling with their mental health?” she asks.
"There is a huge concern with the number of children...being diagnosed with anxiety and ADHD.”
In a coup for the North Burnett, Mrs Buchan will be hosting a full-day professional development seminar for educators at Eidsvold Kindergarten on Saturday, March 2, thanks to a grant from the Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal.
Mrs Buchan, originally from South Africa where she owned and managed early childhood centres, says there is a "chain reaction” between the mental well-being of children and their educators.
"For educators, there is a lot of pressure on academics, which is not in best interest of children,” she says, agreeing that NAPLAN testing is a prime example.
For Mrs Buchan, play and outdoor learning hold the key to unlocking our children's potential, embodied in the name of her program, Natural Learning.
"I am a great believer in connecting with nature, for children to go outside and take risks,” she said.
"I want to build resilience in kids so they can bounce back from adversity.”
She thinks back to her carefree childhood days in South Africa and it's that sort of "high-quality childhood” she wants to help provide through helping develop educators.
For the kindergarten's teacher and director, Leesa Beasley, she's thrilled to have someone of Mrs Buchan's calibre in Eidsvold.
"I know people all around Australia who would love to be in a room with Niki Buchan,” she said.
"It's important our educators have access to the same opportunities as those in larger centres, because we know they are the same quality.”
Ms Beasley is looking forward to hearing the latest developments in pedagogy, or how things are taught.
These include ideas on "loose parts play” and "open ended play materials”, which, in her words, means playing with "toys that are not toys.”
These could include paddle pop sticks, cotton reels or different types of lids.
"Studies have shows we are now educating children for jobs which don't exist currently,” she said.
"We need to teach them to be creative, imaginative and collaborative.
"These are 21st century ideas.”
For Mrs Buchan, who later in the year will be travelling to Iceland, China and the United Kingdom to give her seminars, she is excited to be at the forefront of these developments.
"There is a change happening in education,” she said.
"We are looking more at child and what they need, versus testing.”
Reservations can be made by emailing Ms Beasley at email@example.com.
Cost is $30 with lunch included.