Play spaces in natural environments include plants, trees, edible gardens, sand, rocks, mud, water and other elements from nature. These spaces invite open-ended interactions, spontaneity, risk-taking, exploration, discovery and connection with nature. They foster an appreciation of the natural environment, develop environmental awareness and provide a platform for ongoing environmental education”.
(Quote from pg 16 of the Early Years Learning Framwork)
This quote is a perfect example of how natural learning environments help with the development of young children. The opportunities for children are endless in a garden! Children have the chance to work scientifically as they identify and classify plants; they can explore mathematical skills through counting scoops of dirt, filling watering cans or measuring growth. They can be exposed to reading and writing through related stories, books and creative pursuits such as writing a kitchen garden cookbook. They can experience continued growth in social skills development by working together with other children and educators in considering ethical issues as they learn to nurture and care for living things.
Last year during a review of our Quality Improvement Plan (QIP) at our Prestons campus we identified that Platinum could stand to improve by focusing on further developing the children’s understanding of sustainability and their interaction with natural environments. “The aim of a QIP is to help providers self-assess their performance in delivering quality education and care and to plan future improvements.”
As a result, in addition to our already thriving veggie garden we have had a parent working bee to landscape a formerly underutilised section of our playground with new natural materials and native plant life. We have also installed a rainwater recycling system that stores water run-off from the roof of the outdoor building for use in watering our garden beds.
A huge thank you to the families who took the time to help out at our working bee and to Mandy Richardson Landscaping for arranging all the plants and supplies for the day. The children are delighted with the new space.