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Gabrielle Holden


Kindergarten children are doing their own risk assessments before climbing trees, balancing on natural objects, operating hand tools and even lighting fires with flints, under the stringent guidance of educators in one of the state’s first off-site Bush Kindy programs.

C&K Strathpine Community Kindergarten’s highly sought-after Bush Kindy program was the vision of an inspirational teacher, Gabrielle Holden, whose tireless work has led the way for others to implement similar initiatives.

A strong advocate for the importance of play in children’s development, Gabby’s innovative practices have been praised by her colleagues at the north Brisbane kindergarten, where she has taught for 17 years.

C&K Strathpine Community Kindergarten teacher Rosetta Holm says Gabby’s determination, effort, persistence and patience in overcoming obstacles to implement the Bush Kindy program in 2017 was admirable.

“The success of the Bush Kindy is due wholly to Gabby’s passion, dedication and advocacy for her children to be able to play, explore and engage with nature,” Rosetta says.

Prior to the program being introduced, Gabby spent countless hours, over a period of 18 months, consulting with local government, the Office of Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC), C&K and SEQ water, and visiting established Bush Kindergartens interstate. There were infrastructure and transportation hurdles, and committees to convince.

The benefits the program has brought for children have been enormous, Rosetta says.

“The children thrive and love Bush Kindy. We have seen the positive impact that this experience of engaging in the outdoors has given the children in more than one area of their development. They develop and demonstrate increased confidence, physical strength and co-ordination skills, resilience, risk taking, and further their knowledge and appreciation of our environment,” Rosetta says.

The children, who undertake the program once a week in Terms 2 and 3, follow three key guidelines: I will keep myself safe, I will keep my friends safe and I will keep my environment safe. There are three teachers and one parent supervisor – known as a ‘bushranger’ – per group.

“Working within these guidelines allows children to have a sense of agency in their Bush Kindy experience. Physically, the children become more confident in their abilities and their approach to risk taking. The children learn about safety through experience,” Rosetta says.

“Gabby encourages the children to be the guardians of their own learning during their Bush Kindy experience. Her faith in their ability to guide their own learning in a natural environment has made an impact on every child and adult who has participated in the program.”

As the kindergarten’s co-director, Gabby is also the centre’s chief ‘grant writer’, is involved with numerous local education networks, is the staff’s nominated supervisor, and ensures that any student who is identified as needing support receives it, including filling out all the documentation needed.

She has introduced regular play dates at the end of the year for groups of children set to attend the following year, to help familiarise the three and four-year-olds with the centre and each other.

Through the Bush Kindy program, Gabby has also taught children how to be more respectful and protective of their environment, while learning more about the native flora and fauna. The program has also attracted onsite visits from local childcare centres and schools, and from C&K and ECEC.

“The Kindergarten’s ‘Exceeding’ rating is a testament to the standard of education and care provided by Gabby,” Rosetta says.

Congratulations Gabby on being shortlisted for the TEACHX Innovation in Teaching Award.

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