STURT STREET CHILDREN’S CENTRE ANNE-MARIE SHIN, PRESCHOOL DIRECTOR We want to introduce more elements of nature play, we want to maximise the space for children, we want to enable children to enjoy free time for leisure as well as educational play in the one setting and we want a space that they can grow with so it needs to be really flexible. For the preschool program we have a preschool and early learning program that happens. We have the educators working with kids in the outdoor area seeing that as an extended part of the learning environment no different than learning inside. Our school is rarely without people in it and our hall is used for fitness and activities and other community based activities and Taekwondo club, language schools use the school on the weekends and they use both the grounds and the indoor facilities. There are some church groups who use our grounds on a Sunday and then lots of parents actually like to be with their kids in the grounds after school when they enjoy just having their kids play together while they a chat. We have a Children’s Centre which offers play groups and music groups for children outside who may not come here for child care and school who might be residents in the city or working in the city and we also are embarking on a family services provision. Mothers and babies come here for their health checks and first babies groups so it’s a really important place to educate the community as well as having the community use the facilities and so we need to make sure that whatever we design is able to make sense across the day. Often when kids are so used to the kind of ways that the playgrounds are build they don’t even have to think they know where the next step is and so we want kids to be challenged by their outdoor environment. With kids having smaller and smaller back yards they don’t have as much opportunity to do the sorts of messy play the sorts of cubby building the sorts of play in the community that many of us did when we were kids and so if we can create a safe place for that sort of stuff to happen here I think that’s going to be fantastic and that’s going to satisfy a range of age groups. What we might be able to see as a really appropriate risk for a group of preschool kids might be a totally different proposition when the community are using it in a different way at say at a weekend and we need to help everyone understand how to work with the materials, how to understand the risk, how to respect the environment and that’s really important to us. KAT OCHAN – COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT COORDINATOR In order to capture the wider community’s voice and the parents voice we put a Facebook page up we had a couple of public community events, a pic-nic and stalls on Sturt Street and the common theme for everybody there were a few there was water play, there was dirt play, looking for bugs and creatures, growing plants, they seem to be the common themes amongst everybody. ANNE-MARIE SHIN, PRESCHOOL DIRECTOR I’ve noticed that the children spread out a lot more and that they play in small groups in the different zones and there’s less play that is like just completely follow the leader kind of play. Kids are really making really good choices. The natural elements for climbing around the spaces like the boulders and the tree trunks and give both a boundary to some of that natural space as well as giving a really great sense of different physical challenge for kids. We’ve added a lot more raised garden beds into our zones so that we can have a lot more seasonal plantings and we’ve also taken the fence out from between that used to divide the spaces which makes it a bit more of an open vista. We had one parent who was saying well maybe I wouldn’t put a water feature in the middle of a children’s playground and we said well it’s actually not a water feature it’s actually a play space and he was saying well what might they do with rocks and water. They experiment, they collaborate, they make bridges they think about where the water is going to flow, they dip down it’s all very good actually for their fine motor control as well as their sensory development, as well as their collaboration skills. One of our big focuses across our site has been to make some guidelines for all of the kids across our site so that they really understand that we want the natural elements to thrive. What I’ve seen is that children are really caring about the space and I think they’re caring about the space because they could see their ideas actually highlighted within it. Now lots of kids said that they want a bridge, they got a bridge, lots of kids said they wanted a cubby, they got a cubby, you know for that then to be a palpable for them that they’ve experienced over their time, to be listened to and then to see it in fruition I think has been fabulous. LEONIE SHELLEY – DEPUTY PRINCIPAL We noticed that they were really engaged in their play rather than wandering around looking for something to do. We noticed that behavioural issues or incidences dropped significantly and we also noticed that children were doing a lot of cross age interactions more so than they were before. The conversations that we are hearing when they come back into the classroom previously we had lots of very puffed children coming in and talking about soccer and the rules of games whereas now they are coming in generally calmer about themselves and talking about shape and texture and how something felt and something that they found, they found a worm or what they did about that. The geography curriculum that I am currently doing with the year one class instead of looking on google on YouTube to try and find resources we’ve got all of the resources that we need just in our backyard. Our parent community have been quite excited about the changes I noticed that after school there’s a lot more kids and parents using the space. FIONA PERCIVAL - PARENT I’ve really noticed that parents have been interested in what’s happening and very opinionated. We’ve got a Facebook group where some parents were you know talking about the risks and other parents were saying that they were good so it’s created a debate. Some parents were worried that the rocks might be dangerous or children might get hurt and other parents have posted articles about how it’s really important for children to learn how to manage those risks and decide for themselves rather than have a teacher tell them. YEAR 7 STUDENTS I especially like the water pump and the creek bed because before we were sort of told oh no you can’t play with the water because it will ruin all the sand and the grass and everything like that. I definitely think it’s a lot more of an adventure just going around the school because when we were younger we sort of tried to but there wasn’t really much we could do but if I was with the younger kids now I’d feel really cool with all the space. It was just more coloured slides and monkey bars and really just designated stuff that you play with but now there’s just different stuff where you can roam free and express your own imagination.