Inspiring innovative play-based learning at St Anthony PS, ACT

Published: Wednesday 28 November 2018

The ACT Chapter visited St Anthony Primary School’s Early Learning Centre on November 13 to view the setting and programs the centre provides to their students and families around play-based learning.  

The ELC provides two playrooms which each connect to the outdoor play space.  Each playroom provides flexible internal learning environments that include wet space with bi-fold doors which allow the integration of the external and internal learning spaces.

Greg Walker is St Anthony Primary School and Early Learning Centre Principal.

He spoke to the impact the ELC had on the main school and how this transferred through the students as they progressed in their education, specifically in the student’s knowledge and respect of their fellow students and the physical space. 

The ELC has been running for two (2) years and is the last of eight (8) Centre built, this testifies that the purpose-built features of the ELC are excellent in support of the delivery of the pedagogy and meant that staff, students and parents worked well together to a common outcome.

Sharon O’Brien is St Anthony’s Primary Early Learning Centre Director.

She has worked in education for 25 years and has never worked in a place that gave as much space for the staff as the children.  The staff area was a really valuable asset for the team.

Nicholson’s Theory of Loose Parts [Inquiry-based learning] was incorporated into the curriculum to enable the pedagogical growth of how to explore loose objects.

Alice Castrission is the Preschool and School Age Care Officer for the Centre.

She spoke to the group about the way teaching is delivered in the Centre and the direct and ongoing benefits achieve through engagement in this style of learning.

“It's a nurturing environment where a sense of belonging to God’s loving family is both implicit and explicit, the mission of Regional Catholic Early Learning Centres is to foster the spirit, mind and body of each child. Grounded in an understanding of children’s natural sense of wonder, the Centres aim to equip children to make sense of their world by wondering, questioning, interacting, reflecting and praying.

The nurturing environment of the Catholic Early Learning Centres aims to provide every child with opportunities to grow, learn, pray, play, make new friends and develop a foundation for future success as:

Out of the 8 ELCs 3 are large with 4 play spaces/classrooms and the other 5 are similar to St Anthony’s with the 2 play spaces/classrooms. The large ELCs have Service Approvals for 100 children and the smaller have for 50. However we only have 22 children in each room as we like to have the additional space. The regulations also dictate that you need 1 staff member for 11 children.

The ELCs operate under a Service Approval for long day care. CE break the day into three parts BSC, preschool and after school Care during school terms. The ELC also operates 6 weeks of holiday care a year. Because of the long day care offering families are able to receive the Child Care Subsidy.”

The Library was designed as a darker time-out space, future plans incorporated using this area for ‘light exploration’ through the inclusion of a light table.

The ELC was designed for knowledge and immersive and interactive play for learning.  The philosophy of ‘nature pedagogy’ is relevant to why outside play areas are to be championed to inspire a nurture of ‘innovative play’.

Some lessons learnt around the built environment included extending the outside space to incorporate the philosophy model of inquisitive innovative play, high support needs children requirements such as incorporating toilet facilities within the main centre to imbed inclusion and assist with appropriate transfer space. 

No fixed technology in the space meant things were completely flexible which added to the focus of the ELC of innovative and investigative play. 

Security was included and is a significant and valuable asset to the space, it gave the team the ability to monitor and manage situations should they arise without it disturbing or impacting the children or the Centre.

Article: Judy Apps
Photos: Munns Sly Moore