On Friday I had the privilege of joining my son on his kindergarten excursion to Muogamarra Nature Reserve as a parent helper.
Muogamarra (pronounced moo-go-ma-ra) is usually open to the public only six weekends per year due to the rich aboriginal heritage and the desire to preserve the area in as much its natural state as possible. When the school put a call out for volunteers I couldn’t resist.
I had a group of six to keep an eye on and we were called the Red Kangaroos. Every child had their own Teddy (I took one too) and I think I used the teddies names more than the kids! We boarded the bus, had a very noisy drive to Cowan then ascended a bumpy dirt track up to the top of the ridge where there were a couple of wooden buildings that served as an office for national park staff and an open walled visitor centre.
While the kids were having a snack the parent helpers were pulled aside and briefed on the days shenanigans. This was going to be fun.
The kids were told to put their Teddy and lunchbox in a tub labelled with our groups name to be looked after by a large teddy called Edward.
The kindy was split into two large groups. My little group started out on a bushwalk. We walked to the Tipper lookout and the ranger pointed out all the interesting plants including some bush tucker plants. Wildflower season was almost over and the larger flowers, such as the Waratah, were wilting.
We came upon a memorial to John Tipper, the gentleman who recognised the importance of Muogamarra and donated the land to the National Park System to ensure its care and preservation. The kids asked where he was now and the ranger said he was dead so that’s all the kids talked about for the next five minutes!
We then arrived at the lookout and the view was spectacular! The kids seemed to appreciate it too.
The kids then started a scavenger hunt and they had little hand lenses so they could investigate what they found. They really enjoyed this and it was interesting to see some of the kids come alive at this point. They were so engaged. One little girl was very proud of herself for being the only one to find a tiny feather.
It was time for our groups to swap activities and at the changeover the kids were told that parents were now required to have a short break but we were really off to sneak around and put our plan into action. We collected all the tubs with the kids lunch and teddies in and moved them to a new area where we set up picnic blankets for the teddies to sit on with their lunch. We then took the now empty tubs back to where the kids had filled them…
I rejoined my group. They were playing games that taught the children what animals need to survive: plants, air, water and shelter (PAWS). Some were dressed as trees and others as bears. Then the ranger pretended to chop down a tree and all the bears that relied on that tree had to move to “the city”. Soon all the trees were gone and all the bears were living in the city. The kids then had to guess what needed to happen to move the bears back to the forest (plant trees). Soon enough all the bears were back in the forest and everyone was happy. It was fun but the kids were getting hungry so we returned to the tubs.
Much to their bemusement the kids discovered all their lunch and teddies were missing! Edward the big bear had a giggle and said they had to follow a trail of clues to where the bears were hiding. There were two routes set up and there were pictures at various spots and the kids had to guess what the bear needed – water, shelter etc. They raced through it pretty quickly eager to find their teddies. They were all laid out easy to find and the kids were very excited to be reunited and to finally have their picnic!
They ate and relaxed and had a bit of fun. I had the job of escorting the kids to the loo and back. They were fascinated by the drop toilets!
After the picnic they were treated to a story about habitat loss then were given a bucket of plastic animals so they could build a habitat out of the natural bits and pieces laying around. For privacy reasons I can’t show any pictures of the kids of course, but they did an amazing job. They built a tree using a stick and rocks to stabilise it and put the birds in it. They had a frog pond (clear plastic lid) and a burrow for a wombat.
The kids all thoroughly enjoyed the day, as did I. It was brilliant to visit Muogamarra out of the usual visitors season and I’ll really need to make the effort next year to spend a couple of days exploring. I also highly recommend volunteering like this if you can; it’s simple and very rewarding. A brilliant day out!