Sparkways South Yarra provides an outdoor space for children living in housing towers
Many of the children attending Sparkways South Yarra Pre School live in some of Melbourne’s most densely populated public housing residential towers with limited access to outdoor space.
As a result, the service prioritises time outside and opportunities for the children to connect with green space, including activities such as gardening. Sparkways CEO Angela Forbes reached out to The Sector recently to share more of the service’s story.
Connecting, learning and working in the kindergarten garden at Sparkways South Yarra Pre School, she began, has proven to be an opportunity worth its weight in gold. With many of the children feeling the after effects of extended Victorian lockdowns, with no backyard to retreat to, being able to spend time in the preschool garden is the highlight of their day.
“Not everyone living in Melbourne has the same opportunities and advantages,” Ms Forbes explained.
“In fact, none of the children who attend our kindergarten here in South Yarra have backyards. Children under the age of five have limited access to outdoor spaces unsupervised, other than at kindergarten.”
Creating and tending to raised garden beds with Indigenous plantings, flowers and vegetables provides the children with opportunities to learn and enjoy – while having a backyard away from home.
To embed gardening and outdoor time into the program raised garden beds have been created which are cared for by the children and educators, with more beds immediately beyond the service fence, allowing children to connect with their community providing a space for residents who don’t have access to gardens to pick herbs for themselves.
The children and educators were recognised for their work last year when the kindergarten was a proud recipient of the Young Gardeners of the Year award in 2021 as part of the Office of Families, Fairness and Housing, Victoria in Bloom awards.
“Playing outdoors is such a vital part of the kinder week for these children,” Ms Forbes said.
“We are doing all we can to ensure these children and families have access to some of the things many of us take for granted – a beautiful, inspiring, safe place to play and learn.”
Sparkways South Yarra Pre School was the first kindergarten to be established on any public housing estate in Victoria and has a long and proud history of supporting families living in the Horace Petty Housing Estate.
More information about the service may be found here.
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