Ever since Sturt House was established in 2012 the Director and the Educators have discussed a redevelopment of the outdoor environment. They have imagined, researched, planned and dreamed. Good things come to those who wait, and when the time was right a plan came together. Late last year the nature play and sustainability consultants Climbing Tree were employed to bring our imaginings into reality. They produced a concept proposal which was submitted to the stakeholders; Director, educators, children and the Flinders community for comment, and work finally began in early February this year.
Sturt House was buzzing with anticipation and when the safety fencing went up the children really knew there were changes underway. Groups of children were constantly looking through the fence, catching the builders Ash and Nathan’s attention and confidently asking many questions. Early in week one of the construction work one educator was looking through the fence with a group of children and she said ‘Isn’t it exciting.’ One of the children responded with ‘It’s not exciting, we just want to play now.’ The Sturt House Educators shared the comment with smiles on their faces, noting once again (because these moments are brought to our attention often throughout our day), how differently adults and children can think. Then we thought more deeply about the comment.
We run an emergent, play based program in Sturt House, one driven by the children’s interests together with provocations from the environment and wider Sturt House community. We use the term provocation often in early childhood education and understand it to mean the act of provoking, something that incites or instigates. Here we had an authentic, practical, real life provocation occurring in our garden that was definitely capturing the children’s interest. Maybe this was an opportunity to look more deeply into the children’s thinking about the changes that were happening to their garden.
The construction work had an immediate influence on the children’s play. The children could see a new playground taking shape in their environment and this seemed to empower them to make their own playgrounds. Working collaboratively the children explored and experimented with construction techniques using the loose parts found in the garden. Educators noticed the children’s interest in the tools being used by the builders so some real tools were introduced for the children to use. Children also began making their own tools at the making table. Research was needed to find out about these tools and some very deep thinking and problem solving was required to fabricate them. Literacies were explored through drawing, sculpture and sign making. The learning that was happening was diverse, authentic, engaging and capturing the entire group.
The educators decided to document the garden redevelopment and the connected learning in the form of a time line using photography, displayed at the children’s eye level to encourage comment and participation from the children. Throughout the day children looked at the photos together or with educators. They asked questions, commented, reflected and thought.
Construction work should be finished in about a week’s time from the writing of this piece. There are many things Educators are eager to observe once our garden is completed. How will the children use and take ownership of their new play space; create their own sense of belonging? Will the children’s socio-dramatic play change once the provocation of the construction work is no longer tangible? What will be their responses when reflecting over the documentation? Will this influence their thinking around time and how slowly or quickly it passes?