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Reflections Magazine : Reflections Issue 61, 2015
we were invited to participate in the Strengthening Universal Access Preschool Programs Project to support the delivery of the program at our service. Over several months we attended hub group meetings where we were provided with access to resources, professional conversations and opportunities to network with other professionals across Universal Access sites, University of SA and Gowrie SA. Part of our involvement in this program was to develop an inquiry question to research, improve practice and present at the end of the project. When thinking about our inquiry question, with around 35 staff members, we wanted the question to be something that would involve and benefit the entire service. We had recently been looking at our outdoor spaces and how we could ensure a better ‘flow’ of play between the indoors and the outdoors. We noticed that this was not a consistent practice and presented a challenge for some of our educators. We observed that children were being moved around in large groups, making transitions difficult, with children remaining inside for extended periods of time, and with the outdoor environments not seen as learning environments. From this we developed our inquiry question - What are the benefits of indoor/outdoor play? We looked into the National Quality Standard (NQS) and current research to help support us in how we could collect our data to begin our project. The NQS identified that outdoor and indoor spaces should be designed and organised to engage every child in quality experiences in both built and natural environments (element 3.1 .1). From our research of indoor/outdoor play and by giving children the opportunity of choice, we recorded many positive outcomes from offering indoor/outdoor play, including: • longer periods of uninterrupted play enabling children to engage in areas of interest and to extend their learning; • more space for children to explore, engage and create; • a reduction in stress and an increase in children’s ability to focus indoors; • more opportunities for building self-esteem; • improvements in cognitive functions, social skills, leadership and collaboration; • greater opportunities to develop physical skills and to assess risks in terms of limits, danger and consequences; • opportunities for trans-disciplinary work with educators working collaboratively across class boundaries e.g. children reading about a park while sitting in the park. From these discoveries we wanted to learn about what the children thought about the outdoor environment. We wanted to know, where they liked to play, what they thought they learnt when they were outside, and what it felt like when the door was open and they were given the choice to be outside or inside. Would they like the door to be open all the time? We made up small survey sheets and individually interviewed some of our preschool children. The results told us that the children liked to play outside, and many of them commented on playing on particular objects such as the slide, sandpit, bikes and cubby house. A few children did say they liked to play inside, and some even said they liked to play inside and outside. When we asked the children how they felt when the door was open and they had a choice, we received answers like, ‘Happy because I can be outside all the time.’ ‘Different.’ ‘Safe.’ ‘It feels good because I can build inside Understanding Practice through Professional Learning Darlene Woodhall, Director Alison Rowley, ECE Teacher Stepping Stones Happy Valley Childcare & Early Development Centre, SA Gowrie SA, in partnership with the University of SA, was funded by the state Department for Education and Child Development (DECD) to offer an intensive project aimed at strengthening Universal Access Preschool Programs. The 12-month project was developed to support long day care to improve the implementation of Universal Access to preschool. This unique project reconceptualised professional learning and support to enable participating sites to choose the level of engagement for their team - opportunities included a series of lectures, leadership modules, hub groups, mentoring, phone support, social media and site-based research projects. This intensive model of professional learning supported deeper level change. To read more about the project go to http://www.gowriesa.org.au/sites/default/ files/Universal%20Access%20Project%20report.pdf, or to enquire about similar customised support for your centre contact Gowrie SA. The following article follows one centre’s journey of professional learning. 16
Reflections Issue 60 Spring 2015