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People power pays off

Goodstart centres

Harnessing people power has paid off in spades for Goodstart Toowoomba Bridge St, with a new digging pit, sensory garden and deck the result of some hard work.

The Toowoomba team spent a day working at the centre using donations from parents which had been collected in the weeks leading up to the event.

Centre director Julie Pitkin said the project had been driven and facilitated by the educators at the centre, but everyone had given their input into the development and construction.

Ms Pitkin said the initial idea for the garden came from a beautiful tree in the middle of the large communal playground, surrounded by astroturf that was becoming ripped.

“When I talked to educators about what we could do with the playground, we talked about building a wooden deck or a bench around the tree and creating a more natural digging dirt patch where children could play,” Ms Pitkin said.

“We wanted to create a place where there were activities that reminded our educators of their own childhood – flowers, herbs, big rocks and water for mud pies.”

From there, the team spent time talking about what types off materials, rocks, dirt, sand, logs, bricks and water tanks to use in the upgrade.  

“With the help of the area manager Andrea Caple we decided to make the design happen and shared our vision with parents and children.”

She said while some parents were concerned about the “dirtiness” of a mud kitchen and digging pit, the team had conversations to share research and learning about the importance of nature play for children’s learning and development.

The result of the hard work is a deck around the tree, which was built by the centre director and her husband who is a builder, a digging patch with all labour done by the centre’s educators and their partners, and a sensory garden with music and smell.

“Since we finished the project we’ve seen a large increase in deep level play, with children spending long periods of time engaged in the play space with lovely interactions across the ages with peer to peer learning and risk taking,” Ms Pitkin said.

The project cost about $2500.
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