Nature the focus at Shailer Park
Splashing through puddles, making mud pies, and digging in the vegetable garden are all part of a day of play for children at Goodstart Shailer Park
Far from being afraid of a bit of dirt, messy play is promoted to help the centre’s quest to become more sustainable, and to get the children outside reconnecting with nature.
Centre director Kristy Morgan said when she first identified the importance of teaching children about sustainability, she realised she needed to help them “form a relationship with the earth”.
With help from Project Wild Thing’s Richard Louv and David Bond, the centre decided to rethink the approach to teaching children and wanted to create a mindset shift for families about messy play and getting children out of the centre and in to the community.
With two Logan City Council grants totalling $10,000, the team introduced indoor/outdoor play areas, planted trees, created a yarning circle and began taking the children on outings to the nearby wetlands and on a mini-beast fishing/bush experience.
“We’ve found that opening up free access to water every day, regardless of the weather, and educating children about water usage has made them a lot more interested in the environment.
“We have a mud kitchen which allows children to transport sand out of the pit and into the yard, we’ve removed the fence from around our vegetable patches and have access to previously off limits garden beds and trees,” Ms Morgan said.
“It is such a delight to watch the children play in our outdoor environment. They’re out there filling up buckets of water for ‘cooking’, playing in the rain and splashing through puddles,” she said.
“I believe that the natural environment is a true teacher of children. By playing in the natural environment, children learn to plan and problem solve. I also believe that we are part of an exciting world movement and we hope to continue to inspire families and the community to join in and most importantly to get outside.”
Ms Morgan said the attendance figures at the centre were amongst the highest they had recorded in the past five years and were steadily growing.
“And our people are being inspired and learning new things,” she said. “We are providing opportunities to be at the centre in unhurried and relaxed ways. Children at the centre are not tied down to times and schedules. They can immerse themselves in play for extended periods without interruption.”
The Shailer Park team has big plans for the future - they are talking to Nature Play Queensland about initiatives and are planning a new project called Propogate to Plate which will involve the children visiting the local community garden and planting and seed raising project.