“We want to foster in children an ecological identity, one that shapes them as surely as their cultural and social identities. I believe that this ecological identity, born in a particular place, opens children to a broader connection with the earth; love for a specific place makes possible love for other places. An ecological identity allows us to experience the earth as our home ground, and leaves us determined to live in honourable relationship with our planet.” 

~Ann Pelo, A Pedagogy for Ecology, 2008

Open spaces is a childcare centre in rural Glenbervie just north of Whangarei.  It is headed up by Geoff Fugle who is deeply committed to nature based child education.

I first heard about open spaces through a friend and visited to find a real gem. I couldn’t believe our luck in shifting to Whangarei.

Open spaces is set on a 100 acre farm including a large native forest – “The wild woods”. There are ancient trees to climb, huts to build, rocks to scale and a stream with friendly fish for exploring. While in the woods the staff work with children introducing fire safety as they cook their food.

When not exploring the woods together the children play at the centre within their beautiful surroundings.

The children learn about the natural environment through keeping their space beautiful, composting and growing vegetables and flowers amongst other outdoor explorations.

The teachers at open spaces work with the children to develop a genuine understanding and respect for Aotearoa.

“We walk the land – and we name those places that become special in some way. Labelling places is a way to establish the relationships we have with our surroundings. To give a name is to give respect and recognition; it is the beginning of love. Love and respect are authentically developed over time and create a rich sense of place within the social and natural community.”

~Campbell & Thompson; Naturally Speaking

There is a real emphasis on space at the centre and giving children different nooks and crannies for exploring and playing. They have chickens, a pet pig called Miss Piggy and a deer called Lily.

Open spaces reminds me of my childhood and the wonder I felt in exploring the natural world. Its a world I want for my children and I wish for every child. In some ways I think we’ve forgotten this amongst this fast paced internet, cell phone, video game world we now live in. Its so nice to see the excitement and wonder on the children’s faces as they grow and learn naturally.

Space at child care centres both indoor and outdoor (or the lack of it) has been in the media recently. I really hope that there may be some change coming and our precious little ones get to have the adventures and childhood we enjoyed.

Go on…get outside and find some nature to explore together.

NB# Luca our son is the only child featured here as I wanted to respect other childrens privacy.

If you wish to learn more about open spaces please visit their website: