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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.

Sturt Street Children`s Centre - Adelaide (PDF 2.0MB)