Changing learning environments to support all children to thrive
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Changing learning environments to support all children to thrive

by Freya Lucas

January 08, 2024

Goodstart Early Learning Petrie were the winners of the 2023 Goodies Award for ‘Enabling Environments Excellence’ for South East Queensland (north).


In the piece below, an extract from a longer form piece, Centre Director Megan Fisher, who also won the South East Queensland (north) Award for Goodstarter of the Year, shares some insights and observations about how the service has become known as one which sets a high standard. 


The service, Ms Fisher began, is almost always at full occupancy, and many team members (including Ms Fisher, who has been with Goodstart Early Learning for almost 20 years) are experienced early childhood education and care (ECEC) professionals. 


When Ms Fisher was nominated for the Goodstarter of the Year Award, petitioners talked about their love for the friendly educator, who was noted for her caring nature and support during transitions.Educators, especially, recognised her motivational leadership style, describing her as an inspirational, compassionate, and dedicated leader. 


Having her as a leader, educators note, drives them to excel, and as a result, much of the team are longstanding Petrie members, with two of the team celebrating 20 years of service. 


Employee retention at Petrie, Ms Fisher said, has somewhat of a formula. A thriving environment, genuine recognition, and family engagement are all vital.  


“It’s our priority to create a positive culture,” she said. “I get to build my beliefs here. I can establish and lead a thriving workplace and transform the service to reflect my values.” 


“We work in a supportive environment where we genuinely care for each other. And keeping a sense of fun and laughter in our interactions is a key part of that. This atmosphere makes the workplace enjoyable and fulfilling.” 


When reflecting on the parts of her role which she values the most, Ms Fisher said that building relationships with children and families, and watching children grow are the highlights. 


“I get to connect with families, support and guide them through challenging times, and then to witness positive outcomes is so fulfilling. I aim to make a meaningful difference. The goal is to provide an early childhood experience they’ll remember.” 


Inclusive and enabling environments for all children 


With such a solid team in place, Petrie has been able to spend time, effort and energy to elevate the service it provides, recently transforming its offering for families, starting with reflection and shifted perspectives and practices. 


As a result, the team has been able to shape environments that are inclusive, empathetic and supportive.  


The overall philosophy of the service places children at the core of activities, emphasising building relationships with trust, support, and emotional security and ensuring that children’s voices are integral throughout the service. 


Flexibility woven throughout the early learning centre has reaped many benefits, allowing educators to engage in more meaningful moments with the children. Not having to adhere to strict routines has also reduced stress in the workplace.  


To shape the practice in the service during the shift in perspectives and practices the service used ACECQA’s Quality Rating Scales to support the transformation, guiding ongoing improvement efforts. Using the tools, Ms Fisher said, helps the centre to foster environments that stimulate curiosity, exploration and engagement. 


Practice Partner, Vijayata Chandra and Centre Coach, Cassie Barraud, supported the change. The service developed purposeful play spaces and established flexible, inclusive routines. The scope included all-day indoor-outdoor program.  


They also added a flexible sleep routine and progressive meals which allows children to eat within a longer period of time, with staff guiding them to pay attention to their appetites and rhythms, rather than the clock, reflecting the centre’s ‘commitment to child agency’.  


Outdoor spaces have also been transformed, including an expanded Reconciliation Walk and a new Reconciliation Garden, creating a sanctuary for retreat and care, particularly for vulnerable children and symbolising a united journey of reconciliation at Petrie. 


Added climbing challenges support active play and unique growth journeys, and the integrated natural elements enhance sensory experiences and wellbeing. The environment is also flexible, with open-ended materials and diverse learning opportunities. It empowers children to make choices, fostering autonomy and decision-making skills. 


During the Awards the team were noted for the way in which they foster an inclusive and inspiring learning environment that benefits all. 


To learn more about Goodstart Early Learning Petrie please see here. The original coverage of this piece is available here. Image shows Centre Director Megan Fisher (centre) pictured with two Educators who have been working at Goodstart Petrie for 20 years.

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