How nature connection experiences can re-engage upper primary aged children experiencing ongoing trauma.

Claire Mosley

Session type: Regular forum session
Session duration: 60 minutes

Key words: Trauma, nature, connection, re-engagement, art, adventure, rewilding , nature awareness, eco therapy

Abstract

Claire will share her experience designing and facilitating a program exploring outdoor and nature connection skills to build self-regulation and engagement levels in young primary aged males. This will be an interactive session as Claire will also share some of the activities that she has utilised.

The students that participated in this program had been assessed as having trauma related conditions prior to commencing the program. Trauma was considered to be a factor in the low attendance rates and lack of engagement with the program, staff and peers. The complex effects trauma had on the students, and the ways trauma played out in the classroom will be considered.

Children that have and are experiencing ongoing trauma commonly have issues with attachment, self – regulation, behaviour control, cognition and self-concept. There is also evidence that suggests psychological trauma inhibits the development of linguistic and communicative skills.

Informed by the literature that suggested that time in nature would help traumatised children improve their wellbeing through re-wiring their brains and building positive experiences, a program was designed. The program was aimed at reducing the effects of trauma in the future by encouraging self-regulation and re-engagement.

The program explored whether both structured and open nature experiences could help the students build agency in their learning, practice their regulation and build resilience while encouraging positive behaviours.

Over a period of 12 weeks, the group would ride their bikes to the local wetlands and spend up to two hours playing games, building cubbies, learning traditional skills and connecting with themselves and their peers.

Outcomes included increased social engagement, improved ability to express themselves, cooperation, empathy and improved attendance. For example, compared to the beginning of the program, students would willingly stand together in a circle and converse about their favourite moments from the sessions.

Challenges emerged over the course of the program, these included practical challenges of containing some of the students and managing behaviours in an outdoor setting and meeting the individual needs of each student in a group situation.

This session will include information and experiential activities used in the program.

About the presenter/s

Claire Mosley is an artist, educator, mentor and a deep lover of anything wild. Who grew up and lives on Wurrundjeri country and her love of the outdoors began whilst walking through secret valleys with her Grandfather.

Claire has worked as a bush educator for the last four years. With a Bachelor in Visual Arts and Teaching, Claire merges her experience of education, art and her love of outdoors to provide wild experiences for children that have and are experiencing ongoing trauma.

In 2016, Claire lived off the grid at Wollangarra Outdoor Education centre, where she facilitated hiking trips for year 9 students from all over Victoria. Here, Claire introduced and was responsible for running a program that provided bush and hiking experiences for newly arrived refugees. It is here she saw first hand the therapeutic power that the bush could have on young people.

Currently, Claire works on a government funded program within a community centre with a small cohort of 9-12 year olds in a low socio-economic area in Melbourne’s inner west.

Claire is also heavily involved with Firekeepers, a non-for profit organisation who run nature connection workshops and camps for all ages. Here, Claire has gained a rich bank of experiences wandering and seeing the magic nature of the bush.