The Forest

Walking into Flinders you can’t help but notice the new garden development at Preschool House. Your eyes are immediately drawn to the path; along it’s twists and turns, down the hill to the new gate. What a stark difference it has made visually to the space. What difference will it make to play at Preschool House? A new path, new possibilities; we wonder where it will take us.

The children and educators at Preschool House are very excited to witness the development of the Forest, beginning with the pathway that connects to the affectionately names Jungle Path along the fence line. Many children spend time during their day looking over the fence; watching, listening and asking questions.

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We have also begun documenting what is happening. We are learning about different tools and the material that is needed to make a path; logs, rakes, wheelbarrows, quarry sand and rubble. Inspired, we add logs and wheelbarrows to our play. Some children enthusiastically begin making a path with the logs; two children use spoons from the sandpit as a tool to cut the log to size and others take the wheelbarrows and move sand or leaves around the space.

Following our risk assessment and our knowledge of the children’s competence in using logs safely, we add more logs as the week continues. This means that the Preschool House children can complete pathways, yet is also opens up opportunities for new inventions. The log is a remarkable loose part. A loose part is a resource that can be used in multiple ways with endless possibilities. Offering logs as an invitation never ceases to amaze the educators at Preschool House. For example, in just one hour they were used as an outline for a pool, dug into the sand and used as a table by placing bowls on top, arranged as a fireplace, and balanced on top of one another. We have used logs as a resource for many years at Preschool House, yet they continue to be used in new ways. What creative children!

Like the humble log with it’s open, endless possibilities, the new pathway also invites new play. We can’t wait to see how it is used. We look forward to the children surprising us once again with their creativity. A new path, new possibilities; we wonder where it will take us.

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Acknowledging Country

The Early Years Learning Framework and the Australian Government have declared an ongoing commitment to embedding indigenous perspectives in education and in ‘closing the gap.’ As a part of this ongoing commitment and our ethical responsibility as inhabitants of Australia, Flinders is developing a Reconciliation Action Plan.

Among the strategies we wish to implement is the development of an Acknowledgement of Country. Flinders is located on Kaurna land, and we wish to formally acknowledge this.

We have worked through a number of drafts, and we are seeking feedback from various community participants, including families and local indigenous community members.

We acknowledge that Flinders University Childcare Centre is located on the traditional country of the Kaurna people who have educated and nurtured children on this land for thousands of years; we hope to learn from this wealth of experience. We pay respect to the Elders, past, present and future. We commit to reflecting on reconciliation and equity.

Would you like to share your thoughts?

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Today it Rained…

Today it rained in Adelaide. The children of Flinders rediscovered rain suits, puddles and mud…

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The Passing of Time pt.3

Over the last few posts we have shared the journey of redevelopment in the Sturt House garden. Today we share with you the final product…

The fence has been down for a few weeks now and the children have celebrated by thoroughly exploring the space and all the challenges it has offered their bodies and minds. New ways to balance, swing and climb; individually and together. New skills to learn, practice and then master. The Educators had expected this physicality but what has been most impressive has been the respect and empathy children have shown within the space.

Bird’s nests have been discovered in a tree, now called the ‘bird tree’, within the space. Nests and offerings have been created in and around the tree for the bird sitting on the nest while keeping a respectful distance.

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Children have empathised with others who are struggling with the new skills, and have guided their peers with instruction, demonstration and encouragement. As is the case with peer tutoring, these types of interactions seem to cultivate confidence in both the tutor and the student.

The construction focus within the children’s play has continued; the children are taking their tools into the play space and investigating the construction work in detail, looking carefully at the nuts and bolts that join the timber work. Using their tools, found objects and loose parts they have built playgrounds for the dinosaurs and nests for the birds. Some children have also created games with quite complex rules and objectives.

Our documentation gathered during the construction time has now been complied into a book for the children to look through. The children tell us they can’t remember what the old garden looked like, so together we look at the photos in the book. When I ask the children if it felt like a long time for the new playground to be built they answer me with a puzzled look on their faces, and in a tone that tells me they think it is a silly question; ‘No!’ All that waiting seems to have been forgotten among the joy of the new.

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Children as Citizens, Children with Rights

We are delighted to announce that Flinders has been selected to participate in a 15 month project exploring children’s rights and children as citizens for children aged birth to three. The project is a part of the South Australian Collaborative Childhood Project, developed as a result of Carla Rinaldi’s Thinker in Residence position in South Australia a few years ago.

So we have been thinking about children’s rights, about what it means to have rights, and how we enact this within our work at Flinders. We have been looking again at the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Australia is a signatory. As we refreshed ourselves of this important document, a few articles in particular stood out.

Article 29 – Education should develop each child’s personality and talents to the full. It should encourage children to respect their parents, their cultures and other cultures.

Article 30 – Children have the right to learn and use the language and customs of their families, whether or not these are shared by the majority of the people in the country where they live, as long as this does not harm others.

Article 31 – Children have the right to relax, play and to join in a wide range of leisure activities.

If you would like to take a look at a summary of the full convention, please click here.

What are your thoughts on children as citizens from birth and possessors of rights?

 

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The Passing of Time: A Garden Redevelopment Part 2

Today the gate keys were returned and the builders finished work on the Sturt House garden redevelopment. The children’s excitement levels surged again.

‘Is the fence coming down and we can play?’

These ebbs and flows of excitement and energy have been a pattern over the past three weeks. So now the children are waiting again. Waiting patiently for an official safety check……then the fence comes down and then…… PLAY!

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The Passing of Time: A garden redevelopment

Ever since Sturt House was established in 2012 the Director and the Educators have discussed a redevelopment of the outdoor environment. They have imagined, researched, planned and dreamed. Good things come to those who wait, and when the time was right a plan came together. Late last year the nature play and sustainability consultants Climbing Tree were employed to bring our imaginings into reality. They produced a concept proposal which was submitted to the stakeholders; Director, educators, children and the Flinders community for comment, and work finally began in early February this year.

Sturt House was buzzing with anticipation and when the safety fencing went up the children really knew there were changes underway. Groups of children were constantly looking through the fence, catching the builders Ash and Nathan’s attention and confidently asking many questions. Early in week one of the construction work one educator was looking through the fence with a group of children and she said ‘Isn’t it exciting.’ One of the children responded with ‘It’s not exciting, we just want to play now.’ The Sturt House Educators shared the comment with smiles on their faces, noting once again (because these moments are brought to our attention often throughout our day), how differently adults and children can think. Then we thought more deeply about the comment.

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We run an emergent, play based program in Sturt House, one driven by the children’s interests together with provocations from the environment and wider Sturt House community. We use the term provocation often in early childhood education and understand it to mean the act of provoking, something that incites or instigates. Here we had an authentic, practical, real life provocation occurring in our garden that was definitely capturing the children’s interest. Maybe this was an opportunity to look more deeply into the children’s thinking about the changes that were happening to their garden.

The construction work had an immediate influence on the children’s play. The children could see a new playground taking shape in their environment and this seemed to empower them to make their own playgrounds. Working collaboratively the children explored and experimented with construction techniques using the loose parts found in the garden. Educators noticed the children’s interest in the tools being used by the builders so some real tools were introduced for the children to use. Children also began making their own tools at the making table. Research was needed to find out about these tools and some very deep thinking and problem solving was required to fabricate them. Literacies were explored through drawing, sculpture and sign making. The learning that was happening was diverse, authentic, engaging and capturing the entire group.

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The educators decided to document the garden redevelopment and the connected learning in the form of a time line using photography, displayed at the children’s eye level to encourage comment and participation from the children. Throughout the day children looked at the photos together or with educators. They asked questions, commented, reflected and thought.

Construction work should be finished in about a week’s time from the writing of this piece. There are many things Educators are eager to observe once our garden is completed. How will the children use and take ownership of their new play space; create their own sense of belonging? Will the children’s socio-dramatic play change once the provocation of the construction work is no longer tangible? What will be their responses when reflecting over the documentation? Will this influence their thinking around time and how slowly or quickly it passes?

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