The right environment will excite young minds
When children play it is not simply about fun but a gathering of experience, lessons and valuable life skills, writes A.B. Bishop.
Once considered a frivolous pastime for children, playing has been recognised for the powerful force it is when it comes to children’s emotional, intellectual and physical development.
It is an integral component in the program at St Catherine’s School, which is committed to the Reggio Emilia approach to Early Learning. The school recently opened a new outdoor space at Campbell House – The Ilan Family Centre.
Principal Michelle Carroll says: “The Reggio Emilia approach inspires the learning environments, both indoors and outdoors. An emphasis is placed on creating aesthetically pleasing environments which provoke curiosity and wonder. In the Early Learning Centre we have always taken enormous care and respect when creating beautiful indoor learning environments. Now the children are also inspired outdoors when, each day they play in our new landscaped ‘‘Natural Play Space’’. The outdoor learning space, officially opened in November 2016, has been intentionally designed and constructed, taking into account the latest research about children’s development.”
Head of ELC and Junior School, Alana Moor says: “The new ELC playground, is a shining example of our school’s endorsement
of the importance of high quality outdoor play. The innovative design has created a more natural, inviting play area, which promotes sustainable practices and connections to the natural world.
“It has also provided spaces encouraging fantasy and imagination, using natural amphitheatres and performance areas for drama, music, role play and opportunities for adventure. Children can explore high structures, uneven surfaces, ropes, boulders and logs. They have been provided with
loose parts and materials for the purpose of cubby building and imaginary worlds. Gathering and collecting rocks, leaves, seeds, cones, sticks and pebbles is also encouraged. The new play space also includes enclosed and hidden niches for retreat and social interaction.”
ELC students explore and develop musical skills, and engage in a perceptual Motor Program aimed at “developing and extending each child’s co-ordination, agility and strength through active play on ropes, rings and balance beams,” says Carroll.
The four-year-olds also participate in a program with the Year 4s. “The Four Leaf Clover Program is an opportunity for our students to develop connections with the wider school community. The children meet several times per term to engage one-on-one with their buddy in experiences such as reading, games and drawing. Over the course of the year, relationships develop which are based on respect, trust, empathy and support. The transition to Prep the following year is greatly enhanced by these connections,” says Carroll.
ELC outdoor play space
“Learning experiences, such as the weekly School Library visits and four-year old French classes extend learning opportunities through a love of literacy and investigation of French culture and language. Here, children learn to research and collaborate in small groups and share their learning
Unique skills are required when it comes to taking on the responsibility of teaching beginner learners. “Our ELC educators are highly qualified and experienced professionals who are committed and passionate about their work. They collaborate closely with children and families to provide individual pastoral care, and with other professionals to support children’s individual learning and development. They are patient, supportive, nurturing and partners in learning with the children. St Catherine’sELC is a place for every child to belong, grow and build lifelong learning habits,” says Carroll.