Balee Koolin Bubup Bush Playgroup
The Balee Koolin Bubup Bush Playgroup is guided by Boon wurrung Elder Aunty Fay Stewart-Muir. The Royal Botanic Garden Cranbourne (RBGC) in partnership with the Casey-Cardinia Library Corporation's 'Library has Legs' and Boon wurrung Elder & VACL Project Officer Aunty Fay Stewart-Muir established the playgroup for koorie kids based at the RBGC Stringybark bushland area. The shared partnership goal is literacy: supporting the emergent literacy development as well as plant literacy, cultural and traditional language development of Indigenous children, carers and families.
The bush playgroup meets weekly in a natural outdoor setting at the Royal Botanic Gardens Cranbourne and is for children aged birth to four years and their families. The naming of the playgroup by the steering group uses traditional Boon wurrung language - Balee (Cherry Ballart Tree & Boon wurrung symbol for the very young), Koolin (family) and Bubup (children).
There is a steadily increasing body of evidence supporting the notion that outdoor discovery learning or play boosts children's learning and wellbeing, particularly in their early years. A key focus of the bush playgroup is cultural knowledge and experience of the bush, including; Australian flora & fauna, bush healing & wellbeing, bush conservation & heritage, seasons & shelters, traditional stories.
The program teaches children and families about the plants, little creatures and animals that live in the bush, it teaches children to read the land, to identify tracks, droppings and patterns and to listen and watch in the bush. Children make their own talking sticks and learn to share stories with the group and listen to each other. There is a focus on oral storytelling with families and children learning both English and traditional Boon wurrung language to support children to develop literacy skills, build cultural strength and identity.
Images: top - exploring the bush; above - making ochre and painting kangaroo skin to make necklaces; right - members of the Balee Koolin Bubup Bush Playgroup Steering Group L-R: Charles Solomon, Mick Robertson, Alicia Hansen, Sharon Willoughby, Fay Stewart-Muir, Sarah Bingle, Sharon Blow
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Thank you to Aunty Fay Stewart-Muir, Sarah Bingle and Jenny Gibson for the photographs.