THE DIRECTOR: Cath McEwen

  • I grew up in Arrernte country, desert country of Central Australia, in the town of Alice Springs, where my love of the earth and nature was founded.
  • My childhood was spent in wide open spaces, with red ochres, spinifex and thorny devils, wildflowers after rain, gorges and dry creek beds, eagles and hawks and parrots, waterholes and billabongs, chasms, rocky outcrops and native bushland with its wildlife, so many gumtrees, and Aboriginal cultures.
  • I lived in Aotearoa, New Zealand, for 7 years, with its mountains and ice-melt rivers, glaciers, snow country, lakes, woodlands, natural springs, rain in all its spectrum, volcanoes and volcanic sandy beaches, gentle creatures, caves, old-growth forests, ancient trees, and Maori/Pacific Island cultures.

 

 

  • I love sleeping in a swag in the bush and near the ocean.
  • I am someone who must be outside every day to awaken my senses and to soak in its beauty.
  • I’m learning sustainability comes with intention and practise and I have a long way to go. Each action has an impact; we have to make changes as individuals.
  • I love our space. It’s therapy for me and I want to share it with others.

MY BACKGROUND: Working with children and young people:

I have a Bachelor of Early Childhood Education, majoring in Physical Education. Favourite subject: Adventure Therapy.

I am a Mandated Notifier and hold both current Senior First Aid and Police Clearance.

I’ve worked:

  • in the Early Years sector as a Nanny, Childcare Teacher, and have been a Playgroup Coordinator.
  • in the Junior Primary sector as a Teacher, Special Education Teacher, and as a Director of OSHC.
  • in the Disability sector, with children and young people with special needs,
  • in the Social Justice sector, with children and young people with backgrounds experiencing trauma within families and communities at risk. I was a Respite Carer, Youth Worker, Support Worker, and Tutor in the Juvenile Justice system, specifically with children and young people in detention and in supported accommodation.
  • I’ve also worked with children under the Guardianship of the Chief Executive, with Youth Adventure and Recreation Service, and I’ve been a Mentor on “Operation Flinders”.

I’m a Mother to 3 awesome daughters, now aged 9, 7.5 and 5.5, who, alongside my husband, are my inspiration.

We live on 22 acres of Peramangk country with a creek and native bushland and some sheep and alpacas.

I’ve immersed myself in research and professional development in Nature-based, play-based, child-led outdoor and experiential learning.

I will continue to search for personalised mentoring for myself from inspired leaders and doers in our industry, both locally and internationally.

In late 2017 I went on a 20-day Study Tour with Niki Buchan to Scotland, England and Iceland to “visit spaces of best practice in the Early Years”.

I’ve absorbed information and guidance from many people, particularly:

  • Research Professor Peter Gray
  • Richard Louv
  • Erin Kenny – Cedarsong
  • Niki Buchan – Natural Learning and my colleagues from Niki’s Study Tour Group
  • Tom Shea – Childfirst, and my colleagues from International Play Iceland,
  • Teacher Tom
  • Tim Gill – Rethinking Childhood
  • Angela Hanscom – Timbernook
  • John Marsden – Author and Principal
  • Juliet Robinson – Creative Star Learning
  • Jolie Simpson and her wonderful husband, Richard.
  • the team at Upper Sturt Bush School,
  • All my children’s Educators
  • Robyn Herringer and the team from Woodside Pre-school
  • Lee Munn and the team from Lobethal Kindergarten
  • the team at Nature Play SA
  • Courtney Hunter-Hebberman – Peramangk Grandmother
  • Florence Williams
  • Associate Professor Qing Li
  • and Professor Yoshifumi Miyazaki, both leading researchers in Shinrin-yoku / Forest Bathing.

I would like to thank our beautiful neighbour, Marcia, for supporting our whole process.

An Excerpt from Niki Buchan’s letter…

 

Bush Play Program – “This well-researched and planned program has many benefits to children and the environment. The benefits to children of having access to natural spaces is evidenced by a number of important research projects. During this program the adults will be supported by the highly qualified Mrs McEwen in helping them implement and understand a nature-based philosophy. New skills and the confidence gained in being outdoors will be carried into the everyday lives of children and families, which, in turn, will help children develop a love and respect for the natural world. Increased adult to child ratios ensure high levels of supervision with Mrs McEwen always present as an additional adult to guide the children and their accompanying adults.”

 

Niki Buchan, Leading Educational Consultant/Keynote Speaker/Authority in Outdoor Learning and Play.

Key Principles of the Bush Play Program:

  • Unstructured play in wilder natural environments
  • Child-led program
  • Environment as the Teacher
  • Place-based experience
  • Connection to Peramangk country, connection to Nature
  • Respect for self, for others and for the bush, including all creatures in it.
  • Small groups and Educator Support
  • Risk-Benefit Assessment
  • Children will share 2 hours outdoors, with the program for families. Children here on Excursion will be immersed for 5 hours.
  • Engaging in free play whilst soaking in the benefits of being outside.
  • Nature Therapy

 

I believe:

  • We are all “islands of competence”.  Every single one of us is good at something.  Everyone needs to know and have an idea of what they’re good at.
  • Children need people who love them. They don’t need cheerleaders.
  • We shouldn’t smooth the way too much.  All of us must experience disappointment otherwise we won’t learn to cope with it.
  • We must to be kind to ourselves.  Once we can do this we can truly give to others.
  • We need to observe the self-talk.  Is it valuable?
  • Every child deserves the presence of a charismatic adult.
  • Children are “in flow” when their abilities match their interests.
  • Having the sense that we are part of something much bigger than ourselves can bring solace.  We are a part of much more than we have the ability to realise.
  • Being in nature can give us this.