Written by Kerrie Alexander
Back in the day when there were no screens to be found, kids would climb trees, swing off Hills Hoist clothes lines, build cubby houses, and ride to each other’s houses instead of sending a text message.
They would search creek beds for tad poles and collect sticks to build forts or whatever came to mind.
These are the good old days that Terra Tribe Farm owner Elizabeth Pohlmann wants to bring back to life.
In fact, Elizabeth was so passionate about the idea of her own five children being brought up in a natural environment, that she and her husband Matt pulled up stumps from a ½ acre suburban property in Dundowran and moved to a bare 12.5-acre property in Howard two years ago.
With no water tanks, power or toilet, the family were “roughing it”, all living in a Jayco caravan, shed and a bus fitted out for their 15-year-old, the eldest of the four boys.
All five children are home-schooled and all went cold turkey from using electronics after the move to the land, which is also home to lots of pigs, 40 chickens, 30 ducks, goats, sheep and a plethora of home-grown fruit and vegetable gardens dotted all around the family’s permaculture kingdom.
However, Elizabeth’s dream of buying the land and letting children being able to get outside, get dirty and let their creative minds run wild wasn’t just to benefit her own family.
It was also to instil education about nature, while actually being in nature, into other Fraser Coast children through her very popular Forest School.
“A lot of those opportunities that we had when we were younger don’t exists anymore because there were so many more nature spaces and it was safer to go by ourselves to do that,” Elizabeth said.
“So now I can provide a space where even though there are some risks, it’s a safe environment.”
With a background in Education, Elizabeth believes the importance of nature play is key to any child’s success.
The Puggles Forest Kindy for two to six-year-olds, and her unique School Holiday program offers children from birth to 14 years the chance to put down the screens and learn the three values of permaculture; earth care, people care and fair share.
“It’s very popular in today’s curriculum but I don’t think a lot of kids get that opportunity to really get into nature these days,” Elizabeth said.
“The importance of nature is in helping to build children’s values and morals and they can’t learn that in the classroom, they need to go outside.
“We bought this property because of the area I could host Forest School in, to give my own children more time in nature and to grow our own food.”
Elizabeth said the focus of the program is getting children engaged with nature, using natural bush surroundings as the basis of their play, while encouraging curiosity and empathy to connect with the earth around them.
It also incorporates the permaculture farm with learning to growing their own food, managing food waste, sustainability, composting and worm farms, environmental protection and building confidence in bush settings.
“When you break down education and the curriculum, hands on skills will always win over someone standing in front of you teaching.
“If you’re doing it yourself and your out in nature and see the actual tree and leaning about the leaves, they will pick up the information so much quicker than just being in a classroom drawing a leaf.
“When the kids come out, they can get muddy in the dam, catch tadpoles and yabbies or climb a tree.
“They get to collect eggs, pat a goat, sheep and pigs … lots of people haven’t had that up close experience with farm animals before.
“We have bow and arrow workshops, woodworking, natural tie die using onion skins or turmeric to tie die clothes instead of using chemicals.
“Now that the weather is warming up, the waterslide (slip and slide) will also be open.”
Both Forest Kindy and the school holiday programs are child-led, Elizabeth simply facilitates the children with the tools to let their imagination run wild.
The best part, she said, is the resource shed that is filled with everything from hammers and nails to timber pallets, rope and so much more.
“The children can go into that resource shed and get whatever they want, for whatever they want,” she said.
“I try and provide open-ended materials with no specific goal in mind.
“I want children to bring their creativity and imagination into this space … this is their space.
“I’m not having control over the materials, and I don’t want them to ask me. I want them to take ownership of the space.
“We might be doing wood working that day or making bird feeders, but they might come home with a chair … I think it’s so important to let the kids choose and that’s how we bring up our kids too.”
Elizabeth has seen first-hand the difference time spent outside can make in children, especially those with learning difficulties or are on the spectrum.
“I remember one mum who came with her son who had so much anxiety; he had the biggest smile by the time he left and said he just wants to come back every holidays.
“Kids who have trouble in social situations also benefit because there’s lots of space, so they are not stuck in one area. They don’t have to do everything as a group.
“We’ve got lots of children with ASD that come out. There are hammocks for time out and we have lots of repeat school holiday kids that come as well.
“They know that they can build whatever they want and just love that freedom.”
But be warned, don’t send your children in their Sunday best to take part.
“They are guaranteed to be filthy.
“As much as they might say “I’m not going to get in the dam or the mud” I’ve had parents turn up and their kids are muddy from head to toe.”
Parents are also welcomed to stay and join in the fun.
“We welcome parents as well, especially if their child is apprehensive about them leaving. I want the kids to feel comfortable so the parents might stay and have as much fun as the kids!”
There are full day sessions available during the school holidays from 9am to 3pm, which includes some cooking, or a smaller session from 9am to noon.
The Puggles Forest Kindy runs from 9.30am-11.30am every Tuesday during teens 2 and 3
To sign up, you can contact Elizabeth on 0418873503 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.