The project has attracted a lot of interest from students, parents and passers by because of its colourful and interesting layout. The play area was designed and built by S & J Landscapes with some components sourced from My Cubby, Sydney.
The new environment includes natural elements as well as cubbies and platforms. All features are designed to promote and encourage play, exploration and discovery with the idea that natural and challenging spaces help kids learn to recognise, assess and negotiate risk and build confidence and competence.
Some of the features include:
The giant sandstone block sandpit for sensory, symbolic and physical play
An outdoor library
The mud kitchen for sensory and imaginative play
Small pits of pebbles and smooth river rocks for fine motor and imaginative play
An outdoor classroom
Platforms for drama and imaginative play.
Catholic Schools Office Early Learning Project Officer, Kim Moroney’s passion for early learning and for outdoor learning spaces was the impetus for designing a better physical space for children. As she told parents at a school Parents & Friends Association meeting early on in the planning, “For children, play is learning! Serious, deep, rich learning!”. The P & F were enthusiastic in their support, making available $15,000 to support the project.
The environment, both indoors and outdoors is part of the students' learning curriculum. Kim's research explores how Western cultural changes have led to children spending less time outdoor and in genuine play than ever before.
"The importance of the outdoor environment in a school context is becoming more recognised and relevant in educational circles," says Kim.
"Outdoor learning spaces are now a feature of Australian learning environments and invite open-ended interactions, spontaneity, risk-taking, exploration, discovery, creativity, imagination and connection with nature."
Studies now show that effective play environments give children a multitude of ways to practise and refine skills across all aspects of learning, with outdoor play in particular incorporating literacy, numeracy, science, physical and emotional well-being.