The Sector posted a recent article about how Alstonville Community Preschool makes nature a learning environment. The preschool was built under the belief that there are several benefits of nature play as a teaching tool. It engages educators to create learning spaces inside and out and to be responsive to the needs of children. Several learning environments were created providing ‘pockets’ “of play for individual and small groups of children i.e. quiet spaces, creative spots, and areas for ‘busy’ and active play”.
“Indoors, two large playrooms are filled with natural light from high windows that frame the trees of the parkland surrounding the preschool, effectively bringing the outside in. The use of natural materials and loose parts reflect the philosophy and values of the preschool and feature heavily in resources for learning and in room décor. The playrooms open onto a wide covered deck which connects the indoor and outdoor learning environments, allowing plenty of space for play ‘outdoors’.”
The outdoor environment looks to maintain natural shades and spaces for climbing or hiding with trees and other plants. Active play is encouraged with open grassed areas, pathways that connect these areas with other spaces offering different activities opportunities. Rooms for playing are strategically divided with planting and there are also vegetable gardens that provide kids the opportunity to grow their own food and have cooking experiences.
The most interesting part of this project, besides integrating nature, is that it relies on ‘art’ in order to create beautiful and stimulating spaces for children:
“The outdoor learning spaces are in continual development, and recently the creek and mud patch areas were redeveloped with water conservation in mind. Children and families worked with local artist Sam Wortelhock, to create a colourful mural, which has transformed a large brick wall, creating a beautiful backdrop to stimulate play ideas and themes through the local wildlife habitats, flora and fauna depicted. These projects and two other murals completed under an artist in residence project with local Aboriginal artist Uncle Digby Moran in 2017, were funded through Quality Learning Environments and Community grants.”
At MKThink we are also looking at how learning environments can adapt to our evolving needs over time and how those spaces are designed considering factors such as wellbeing and safety.