Wandana Avenue Early Learning & Kinder transforms front yard into nature play space
What was once an unused front yard space has now become a lively hub of activity, with a focus on nature play and reconciliation activities. In the piece below Mardi Matthew, Director at Wandana Avenue Early Learning & Kinder, tells The Sector the story of how the space was transformed, utilising sustainability and community connections.
“At Wandana we have converted our front unused yard into a nature play space for the children,” she began.
“There are paths leading to a variety of small areas for experiences based around nature and or recycled play. We also have built a mud pit and kitchen area for pretend play.”
All the materials used in the space are upcycled or natural, such as donated pots and pans, cooking utensils, sticks, herbs, flowers, and bark.
Surrounding the yard are bushes and cubbies. In one corner lies an old boat, which Ms Matthews says is a great prop for extending children’s imaginative play. There is also an area which has been developed as a yarning circle that has become a well-used space.
“When I started at Wandana in 2019 this area was not being utilised,” Ms Matthews explained.
“After much discussion with all stakeholders about the benefits of nature play and the holistic learning that can occur, we brought in our gardeners. We had an in-depth discussion about how to turn our ideas into a safe space that was compliant with the regulations, inviting and engaging and low maintenance. We all worked together and, before long, the space became a useable play area.”
As part of the redevelopment process, the team worked to educate families, children and themselves about the benefits of a nature play space. This included why this area should use, as best as possible, natural and recycled materials with many loose parts to enhance children’s curiosity and imagination to further support their learning.
“I started an inquiry project on this topic to assist in embedding the knowledge and importance of creating open-ended play, with natural or recycled materials, which will allow children to guide their own learning,” Ms Matthews said.
A clear understanding of the importance of nature play has encouraged all educators to incorporate the space into their daily programs. Children spend hours exploring and creating, using the yarning circle to tell stories, talk about experiences and to learn about the world.
As part of Wandana’s reconciliation action plan, there was also a focus when redeveloping the space on creating a bush tucker garden, a space which was easily available for both families and children.
“After much collaboration we built a small garden in front of the nature yard and near the entrance. We left garden tools and bottles of water for anyone to help maintain the garden and to hopefully create connections with our families and children,” Ms Matthews shared.
“Our plan is to extend this garden into the nature play space for children to have direct access to these plants and further develop their connection with the land.”
The play space will continue to evolve and change as the service does, with new families and educators bringing new ideas and new directions. Current additions planned for the space include creating climbing and swinging areas using some fixed natural structures.
“We all love this nature play space. It has become a central learning hub for our service, and we enjoy organising whole-centre experiences,” Ms Matthews said.
“Our latest is ‘Learning from the land’, where we had nature art and creative experiences set in all spaces of the yard and a fire pit in the middle of the yarning circle. Here we made damper, had our lunch and snacks throughout the day, told stories and just spent time together.”
“Overall, this area is an amazing space where daily learning occurs. We are proud of our nature yard and the improvements made, and we know that just as our children and educators grow, so will our nature yard.”
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