Outside School Hours Research Hub

Vignette 7 – Caring for Country

Wattle Hill OSHC is located by the river in a country town. The service has access to the sorts of outdoor spaces that are common in many services such as football ovals and netball and basketball courts. The children are also able to access the bushland that surrounds their school, and will use the natural spaces to engage in self-guided play and leisure. They will sometimes make cubbies, play hide and seek, or just find spaces to sit and socialise. 

Kavita, Sandi and Anthony had been playing in the bush and spoke to Terri, one of the educators. They said that they were concerned about the amount of rubbish in the bushland. The children had been learning about caring for the environment in the classroom and thought that somebody needed to do something about the rubbish. Terri asked the children what they thought should happen. The children suggested that maybe Wattle Hill OSHC could start an environment club that cared for the country around the service. Terri suggested to the children that they come up with some ideas for the club, such as who would be in it, what activities would be involved and what resources they needed. 

Kavita, Sandi and Anthony came back to Terri with their ideas. They said that the club could have a working bee in the bushland, picking up any rubbish, and that all children would have to participate. The children said they would need bags for the rubbish. Terri told them this was a fantastic idea, but she wasn’t sure if they could make all of the children collect rubbish.

Terri reminded the group that OSHC was children’s leisure time, and it was important that children could decide what they did in that time. Terri suggested that the group think about how they could tell other children about the environment club and encourage them to participate. Kavita, Sandi and Anthony decided to make some posters about the club. Terri also suggested they might speak to everybody at the next programming meeting. The children thought this was a great idea and decided that Sandi would do most of the talking.  

The environment club has become really popular at OSHC. Once a week, the group clean up an area of bush or the school grounds. About 12 children participate every week. The group meets once a term to come up with new ideas and ways of caring for the environment around the school. The other week, the school principal presented the group with an award and asked them to speak at the school assembly. The group have also designed and contributed a page to the OSHC website to tell families and community members about their club. 

Outcome 2: Children and young people are connected with and contribute to their world

This vignette is a rich and multi-layered example of children’s engagement with environmental sustainability that focuses on their desires to care for our natural world. Terri responded proactively to the approach from the three children about want to clean up the OSHC surrounds. Terri recognised that being citizens and part of OSHC and the broader community involves being consulted and involved in decisions that affect those communities. When approached by the group, Terri supported them to lead the project, engage in shared thinking and return with a proposal to start and guide their work. She worked in partnership with the children by giving them feedback on their proposal and offering resources to assist them with forming the club.  

Of course, this vignette is an example of how the children were able to show appreciation of and care for their natural environment. Terri supported them to recruit other children to engage in community activities that care for Country and connect with animals, plants, lands and waterways in the school and OSHC communities. Kavita, Sandi and Anthony worked collaboratively to express their citizenship through acts of activism and advocacy. Their actions connected OSHC more closely to the school and wider community by speaking at assemblies. 

Outcome 3: Children and young people have a strong sense of wellbeing

Feelings of happiness and satisfaction are important elements of children’s wellbeing. In this vignette, the educator Terri worked skilfully to support children experiencing success through their self-initiated environmental project. Whilst allowing the group to use their capabilities to independently direct the project, Terri provided judicious support that helped the project to succeed. Terri provided advice, resources in establishing the club and also embedding it in the regular OSHC program and recruiting other children.  

The children’s deeply thoughtful initiative was recognised by the school community when they were given an award and invited to present to the school. This provided them with a way of celebrating their own efforts and achievements, but also gave others the opportunity to celebrate those efforts. Including the club on the OSHC website provided further recognition, and gave the club a way of sharing their hard work in ways that gave them appropriate acknowledgement.

Outcome 4: Children and young people are confident and involved learners

“Play and leisure activities undertaken in school age care settings provide children and young people with the confidence to take responsibility for their own wellbeing, learning and development. School age children and young people are involved in a wide range of experiences, and they have a capacity for independence, self-direction and collaboration (MTOP, p54). This vignette provides one example of how OSHC can support children to be active agents in their own learning and gaining experience in civic engagement.  

When approached by Kavita, Sandi and Anthony, Terri listened carefully to their ideas and worked in partnership with them to put those ideas into action. Terri responded to those ideas by commenting on them, providing encouragement and additional ideas. Terri’s wise engagement supported the children to make their own choices and take control of the club, qualities that are essential in becoming confident and involved learners. This approach also gave the children the opportunity to engage in shared planning and problem solving.  

The positive responses to the club initiative by the OSHC educators and the school helped to give the children further confidence in their capacities as learners. Educators validated the children’s efforts by recognising the club as an important part of the program and including it on the service website. School leaders did similarly by giving the children an award and the opportunity to present their work and their learning to their peers. 

Outcome 5: Children and young people are effective communicators

“Communication is essential for interacting with the world and others. Children and young people use their communication skills, particularly as listeners and speakers, to engage in relationships with others. Children may also use digital and assisted communication to convey their ideas” (MTOP, p60). 

The environment club described in this vignette provided children with multiple opportunities to use and develop their communication skills. By engaging in shared decision-making, Terri provided a space where children were able to form and communicate their ideas about an environment club. Laura Lundy says children can be unaccustomed to being consulted and need time and space to form their ideas. Terri did this by suggesting to the group that they take time to put together a proposal. This allowed Kavita, Sandi and Anthony an opportunity to develop confidence in their ideas and expressing them.  

The young leaders were also given platforms within the OSHC program to speak to other children, sharing their ideas about the club and inviting them to participate. Being able to communicate to different audiences is another important skill, which the group experienced in presenting to the rest of the school. Not only would they have presented to non-OSHC peers but also a range of age groups and the school teachers. The children had an opportunity to develop presentation skills, sharing not just their project but also their OSHC service.  

Communication takes multiple forms including in digital spaces. By giving the children the opportunity to promote the club on the OSHC website, Terri and the educators provided children with ways to develop their digital literacies. 

Invitation: OSHC Research Study

We want to understand what OSHC educators know about children’s mental health and how they currently help children with emotional and behavioural needs.

If you are an Australian OSHC educator who works with primary school-aged children, we invite you to take part in our study.