What do young children need more of outdoors?

Biodiversity in early childhood spaces

The biodiversity principle in practice in an early childhood space in rural Australia

Our recently published research sheds light on what young children might need more of in their outdoor learning environments.

How do we stimulate well rounded play, physical activity, motor development and simply the joy of being outdoors? In a word think “diversity”. Built and natural design elements with variable surfaces, inclines, levels and terrain make for varied and heightened physical activity and movement experiences. These diverse elements in turn bring challenge and delight.

Parents, early childhood administrators, educators, designers and builders of children’s outdoor spaces should be encouraged to embrace the biophilic design principle of “Biodiversity”. All too often monocultures prevail and children are left with safe, sanitized and flattened outdoor environments lacking in vegetation, imagination and challenge. Biodiversity in plant life, natural elements and materials offers the potential for enriched multi-sensory learning and spaces children and adults will want and love to be in.

Find out more at: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7721/chilyoutenvi.25.1.0029

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Our research continues on re-natured outdoor early childhood spaces

Garden Drum’s Helen Young reports on the KinderGardenProject: Putting the Green Back into Kindergartens a collaboration between the City of Ballarat, Deakin University, Uniting Care, Flemings Nurseries and Eureka Community Kindergarten Association: Putting ‘garden’ back into kindergarten

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Nature-Outdoors Important for Children’s Emotional, Spiritual and Physical Wellbeing

Very happy to be part of the collaborative work between Fleming’s Nurseries, Mission Australia Early LearningDeakin University City of Ballarat, ECKA, Uniting Care Ballarat connecting children to nature and the outdoors from a very early age:

Kinder-gardens new focus for garden guru

Garden guru Wes Fleming gives kindergarten play areas a makeover Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/garden-guru-wes-fleming-gives-kindergarten-play-areas-a-makeover-20140817-103p4o.html#ixzz3AzIQ49ZI


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Brunswick to Ballarat – Car-free family holidays by bike

We’re a family of 4 living in Brunswick, Victoria bastion of bike culture; some might quip Melbourne’s answer to Amsterdam. With the help of bikes, good public transit and long-term membership of car-share company Flexicar we have been car-free for nearly eight years. We love our bikes! Currently there are 7 treadlies in the garden shed. Needless to say, cycling is part of the family gene pool. Brunswick is blessed with a vibrant local bike culture and the infrastructure to support families to ride to get to shops, supermarkets, childcare, kindergartens and schools. Lots of great socialisation happens on the ride to kinder and school for parents and kids alike;  its great exercise, and there’s the added bonus that with riding bikes our kids have really gotten to know and appreciate the finer details of their local environment and community. Sadly recent Deakin University research reveals more and more children are missing out on these enjoyable experiences as a result of spending so much time commuting by car and seeing their neighbourhoods from out of a car window.

So with cycling at the centre of our daily life we decided it was time to take a holiday by bike. For our first foray we decided on Ballarat which prides itself as a bike-friendly city with bike lanes, paths and rail trails as part of the larger tourism package. We did a bit of online research to help us plan for a 3 day trip over the Australia Day weekend and even came up with a bike-friendly Motel to stay in.

On this trip we had Kim riding a Jamis Commuter 1 and Jarrah (aged 9) on a (soon to be hand-me-down) BYK E450, both purchased from the ever helpful Velo Cycles. Meanwhile I rode our much-loved Xtracycle Radish originally sourced from and maintained by Huw Vellacott and the chilled-out crew at Commuter Cycles. Our youngest son Rico (age 5) came along for a comfy free ride made possible by the Radish’s accessories – the Magic Carpet, Footsies and Stoker Bars.

We packed lightly, about one bag per person, with a few extras such as swimming gear. All up the luggage was easily taken care of with Kim’s two bike baskets and the large hauling capacity of the Radish.

Our little adventure started with a short ride to Brunswick Station, and onto the last carriage of the train for the trip into Melbourne’s Southern Cross Station.  We deliberately left in the middle of the day to avoid any peak hour congestion and potential hassle.

Negotiating the lifts and turnstiles with fully laden bikes at Southern Cross Station was surprisingly trouble-free. The Radish – with its long tail – easily fit into the elevators with all of us squeezing in. Putting bikes on intercity and regional trains in Victoria is free and apparently much easier than it was in the past. That said it is still at the discretion of individual V/Line train conductor to allow bikes on board. It is possible to be denied boarding a train with a bike if it is too full. With this in mind I was a little concerned about fitting the Radish into the bike storage area on the Velocity train taking us to Ballarat. Our conductor gave us a momentary worried look as we turned up on the platform with three bikes, especially concerned about the length of the Radish. But fortunately he was very helpful and even escorted us to a section of the train where there were fewer people and two bike storage areas (which are indicated on V/Line trains by a blue bike symbol on the carriage).


With a little manoeuvring we managed to load the Radish back-end first into the bike space without it blocking the aisle of the train carriage and then secure it to the BYK E450 with the Velcro straps attached to the cargo railings. Our other bike was securely stored in the adjacent carriage. Easy! We grabbed seats right next to our bikes and then enjoyed the hour long trip to Ballarat.


The other surprise was how cheap this journey was. The return fare for 2 adults was under $50.00 with the kids on this occasion riding for free.


Off the train at Ballarat Station

A short ride (about 15 minutes) got us to the bike-friendly Sovereign Park Motor Inn. We got a little lost due to relying on cycling directions from Google maps. (Good reminder that Google maps are basically set-up for car travel.) The motel was 4 Star and might not suit everyone’s budget. However the facilities were fantastic for families and included a recreation room, play equipment, and a fabulous indoor pool. They provided us with a private lock-up storage room for the bikes, and the motel even has a bike maintenance area and a bike wash. Motel staff did everything to make our stay easy and enjoyable. One of the managers told us that only a few weeks before they had accommodated the Orica Green Edge team for the “Nationals” Cycling Australia’s Road National Championships hosted in 2013 by Ballarat.



Bike friendly motel facilities

The best sources of information to get around the city came from TravelSmart maps on the Ballarat BUG website and also available via Ballarat City Council. The Travel Smart Map was an excellent way to work out how the city’s bike friendly streets, bike lanes, paths and trails connected up.




The first day we spent cruising around what is considered Ballarat’s jewel in the crown Lake Wendouree. With a steady breeze blowing and gorgeous sunshine we were not disappointed. The ride through town was a combination of bike path and bike lanes. Only one steep category climb along Dana Street got some of us off our bikes and walking! Once we cleared this hill it was an easy ride to Lake Wendouree. The wide streets en route had excellent bike lanes and the historic homes and public architecture in this heritage precinct were a delight to ride through.

Lake Wendouree is encircled by an unsealed, well-maintained gravel trail suitable for walking, jogging and most bikes.  There are also on-road bike lanes for the road bike fraternity.







The ride around the Lake was an easy 6km, with pit-stops including the enormous Ballarat Community Adventure Playground (a huge hit with our boys), the picturesque  Botanical Gardens, and the friendly, laidback Ballarat Lakeside Farmers Market.




As we loaded up our fresh produce from the farmers market into the Radish (ya’ gotta love loading fruit ‘n’ veg into a bike named after a vegetable), some locals remarked that one of their musician friends was also riding a Radish in Ballarat – and used it to transport her cello! It was nice to know that long tail cargo cycles are not only a capital city phenomenon.

Over the 3 days we also rode to the The Unicorn on Sturt Street for dinner. Kim and I enjoyed sharing the Barramundi in beer batter with chips and the boys went down the comfort food route with yummy baked beans on sourdough toast. Local artwork on the walls and Nat King Cole on vinyl and an old turntable were a nice retro touch.

With these short rides around town we began to notice an absence of proper places to lock up bikes. Lydiard Street (one of the main drags) and Ballarat Station seemed to be the exception. For a city with a population of more than 94,000, pretty visible bike infrastructure and cycling as a tourism marketing push, we were curious as to why there were not more hoops and racks to securely lock up your bike?




One of only a handful of bike hoops we found to use around downtown Ballarat

On our final day we headed to the Ballarat Art Gallery, and were reminded that Australia’s regional art galleries are cultural treasures. We indulged in a pricey but stellar lunch at Sweet Decadence at Ballarat Art Gallery. I had a delectable mocha with handmade chocolate which I won’t forget in a hurry – fuel for the train and bike ride back to Melbourne!


Kim’s Jamis Commuter 1 and Jarrah’s BYK E450 snugly strapped in for the train trip back to Melbourne


Negotiating elevators on our return to Melbourne’s Southern Cross Station

By the end of 3 days we felt like we had barely scratched the surface of what is on offer for cyclists of all persuasions in Victoria’s third largest city. Ballarat by train and bike from Melbourne was a perfect option for us as a family. We have friends who have even made it a day trip just to get out of town and have a ride around the lake. Apart from the sheer fun of an active two-wheeled holiday it was interesting to further road-test our urban and regional (bike-friendly) transit infrastructure. More can always be done but it was a joy to celebrate and make use of what we have here in Victoria.

Text: Llewellyn Wishart

Photos: Llewellyn Wishart and Kim Sargent-Wishart

Posted in Cycling-Active Transport, Green Living | 3 Comments

“Miracle Microgreens” – For Home, Early Childhood Settings and Schools

About 12 months ago I came across an article in Organic Gardener Magazine Jan/Feb 2012 by Justin Russell on Microgreens. Microgreens are a super fast super food that are easy to grow in a wide variety of containers, well suited to confined spaces such as courtyards, apartment balconies, in a well lit corner of a classroom or a partially shaded outdoor space in a childcare centre, preschool or school. The basic idea is to plant yummy stuff from seeds and harvest them while they are still small and a little bigger than sprout-sized. You do this continuously before the seedlings  get large enough to require transplanting into larger pots or into the garden.

I was so inspired after reading this article that I went crazy and set up about 6 or 7 different pots and containers with a wide variety of microgreens at home.

Microgreens I

Our first experiment Red Lentils, Snowpeas, Coriander (Cilantro), Lucerne (Alfalfa) and Mung Beans

As is recommended we sowed a lot of seeds, maybe a few too many in some of the smaller containers but in the end we couldn’t eat all that was on offer fast enough. First time round our children were not that crazy about the taste of most of the greens with the exception of Coriander (Cilantro) so maybe that was also why we were struggling to eat what kept popping up?

Having the microgreens just outside the kitchen door meant we could cut some to spruce up a basic salad or instantly put some greens in a sandwich. We used scissors each time to harvest only what we needed. Quick and easy a bit like giving the plants a little haircut!

When the microgreens got a bit old and a little too big we simply emptied the entire contents of their pots into our compost bin and dug it all in then started again.

(You could also chop up old microgreens for the worm farm. If you had larger quantities of for example alfalfa or peas you might be able to dig them directly into a garden bed as green compost).

Since our first attempt we have grown microgreens more modestly so that nothing is wasted. Now our children are appreciating more the yummy symphony of flavours that come with growing a wide variety of uber nutritious greens for soups, salads and sandwiches.

We have also experimented with growing mixes of microgreens in the one container which whilst not looking as appealing as single crop pots are a very fast way to get a variety of greens ready to easily  harvest.

Microgreens II

Mixed microgreens

Having set-up food gardens at home, and as a parent/teacher assisted with their set-up in kindergartens, child care centres and in a school; I’m well aware of the time, effort and persistence needed to start these projects and then keep them going/growing. Not that I want to discourage others from pursuing the full blown food garden option, but this is where microgreens might have a role to play…

Growing microgreens in some circumstances may be a more do-able, less time consuming option for busy individuals, families, folks living in high rise apartments or educators wanting to green the curriculum and sustain children’s engagement with nature and healthy whole food.

For those working in the Australian early childhood sector: growing microgreens might be one of the ways to help meet the Australian National Quality Standards and Regulations (ACECQA 2011) related to Standard 3 Physical Environment:

  • 3.2.1 Providing children with quality nature-based experiences;
  • 3.3 Services actively support environmental care and sustainability and,
  • National Regulation 113. Outdoor space – natural environment.

Here are some suggested microgreens to grow:

  • Lucerne (Alfalfa)
  • Mung Bean
  • Lentils
  • Garlic Chives
  • Salad greens
  • Rocket (Arugula)
  • Spinach
  • Lettuce
  • Kale
  • Pak Choy
  • Mustard
  • Silverbeet (Chard)
  • Beetroot (Beets)
  • Beans
  • Peas
  • Fennel
  • Fenugreek
  • Coriander (Cilantro)
  • Chives
  • Daikon Radish




Recently planted – Alfalfa, Rainbow Chard, Red Lentils & Fenugreek


ACECQA, 2011, Guide to the National Quality Standard, Australian Government, Canberra ACT, pp. 83-84.

Justin Russell, 2012, ‘Microgreens: fresh food fast’, Organic Gardener, Jan/Feb, pp. 30-34.


Fionna Hill, 2011, How to Grow Microgreens – Nature’s Own Superfood, David Bateman, New Zealand.

Posted in Early Childhood Education, Green Living | Leave a comment

Natural States – Embodiment Studies & Exploration

Here’s a workshop series that I am leading in Melbourne Australia at one of Melbourne’s leading edge cultural institutions:




NATURAL STATES – Embodiment Studies & Exploration
2012 Workshop Series with Llewellyn Wishart

Natural States is an ongoing workshop series focused on in-depth embodiment studies & exploration. The workshops follow a developmental line of inquiry continually returning to an organic felt-sense of being-presence – our own natural state of movement function and expression. The primary vehicles for these explorations will be: Body-Mind Centering® theory and practice; Contact Improvisation, Yoga and Meditation; Solo and Ensemble Dancework. This pathway will be supported by philosophy and practice from contemplative traditions that honour direct experience, awareness and self liberated states.

Times & Dates: Mondays 7:00-9:00 pm Autumn Series: 16 April – 14 May; Winter Series: 30 July – 27 August; Spring Series: 24 Sept – 22 October.

Venue: Dancehouse (Gallery Space) 150 Princes Street, North Carlton VIC.

Fees: $90.00 (Full) $75.00 (Conc./Dancehouse/Ausdance Members).

Who will benefit from Natural States workshops?
Dancers, dance educators, dance/movement therapists; choreographers, performers; yoga practitioners & teachers; athletes, meditation practitioners and those engaged in the study of somatics.

What will you learn?
An opportunity to:
-learn new somatic practices;
-deepen and refine one’s dance-movement practice;
-explore the foundations of contact improvisation;
-communicate, collaborate and inquire with like-minded colleagues.

Registration, Questions & More Information

Call or SMS + 61 408 210 076

***Please register before first class in any series. Full fee payable on first day of class in any series***

Teacher Biography
Llewellyn holds post graduate qualifications in early childhood education, adult learning & movement-dance education. He is a Certified Body-Mind Centering® Practitioner and professional practice member of Body-Mind Centering® Association (BMCA Inc.). He has studied and practised Contact Improvisation for over 20 years, having taught the form in Australia, New Zealand and USA. He was a founding member of mixed-ability dance company State of FLUX in Melbourne. Llewellyn has pioneered Body-Mind Centering® applications in professional learning settings in Australia and the U.S. He has worked in this capacity with: UNE, Deakin and Melbourne Universities; Stamping Ground Dance Festival, VIS, Sport Ed VIC, Royal Botanic Gardens Education (Melbourne & Cranbourne), Bluearth Foundation, CPX Melbourne, BMCA, Clover Catskill Berkeley, Simply Balanced San Francisco and Auburn-Lewiston YMCA Maine.

Posted in Continuing Education

‘Nature Teaches Naturally’

Click on the link below to view or download an updated version of the original posting (Sept 9, 2010) reprinted here from Currents – A Journal of the Body-Mind Centering® Association Inc.

Nature Teaches Naturally

It can be cited as follows:

Wishart, L 2011, ‘Nature Teaches Naturally: Present and Future Perspectives on Nature-based, Ecological and Somatic Learning’, Currents – A Journal of the Body-Mind Centering Association, vol. 14, no. 1, pp. 8-11.


Posted in Short Essays | 2 Comments