This blog post is written by Narelle Dawson, Director/Teacher at Bribie Island Community Kindergarten, one of only 33 centres in Australia that have achieved an ‘Excellent’ NQF rating. Narelle shares some background, ideas and reflections about being ‘Excellent’.
“The Bribie Island Community Kindergarten is a ‘one of a kind’. Many little things combined make it the extraordinary place it is. It is as magical wonderland where children truly do learn through play. From the moment you enter the gates and follow the aboriginal snake mural to the front door you know you are in for a treat. The warm ambience of the foyer with music, fairy light trees, calming scented fragrances, miniature water feature and comfort chairs welcome you to the day. This homelike natural environment invites the children to their second home.
The Kindy has large comfy adult lounges, is literacy rich, has a dark room for exploration, pet birds, display cabinets accessible to children, a tepee which is a safe space for calming and insect nature box, just to name a few.
Then you get to step into the outdoor environment complete with vegetable gardens, artist studio, water feature play area with water pumps and mist system over a creek bed, chickens, purpose built music area amongst the trees, benches for resting and day dreaming, mud kitchen, fairy gardens, learning circle, bush telegraph phone system and much more, all which make this a special place.
Receiving the ‘excellent rating’ is the result of demonstrating in many ways how children and families benefit from the work we are doing. We are also required to demonstrate how we will not only maintain excellent service but also how we work towards a never ending cycle of excellence.
One of the ways we committed to this was to research and find a way to be true to our philosophy, NQS and indeed to ourselves when it comes to collaborative partnerships with our children and families. We needed to find a way where children and families are active partners in their children’s learning at kindy. This also needed to be a way that engaged the children because often digital documentation can exclude the opportunity for children to have a hand in it.
Storypark was the answer for us. We have all of our families on board. We are loading the ‘Today We’ so parents can read, discuss with their child and then comment on some focus learning of the day. They can do this in the comfort of their home. Our FIFO parents can access information and stories about their child’s life whilst at kindy.
We have children’s grandparents and other relatives all over the world accessing their child’s e-Portfolio and commenting on the learning. The children are loading stories with educators as they happen including their words. The children are saying to educators “can you take a picture of this and put it on Storypark”. I am also communicating privately in Storypark with parents about their joys and their concerns regarding their child and their development.
Storypark is the answer we have been searching for so many years. Family engagement is up by an immeasurable amount in comparison to pre Storypark days. Our educators, parents and extended families are ‘in love’ with Storypark, it is the world of communication and collaboration we have been searching for that actually works.
Storypark is a great product. For me the stress of documentation and stories and linking this to curriculum has lifted. This process has finally become a collaborative process in the true sense – between staff, children and not just parents but extended family members too!”
But it isn’t just having these great resources that make this Kindy so amazing though. It is how the staff work with it that makes it so great! The children truly do have free choice to decide where they play, learn explore and investigate e.g. inside or outside, to eat when they are hungry and self-select the resources they want or need, to take a seat with peers and teachers at a large communal timber bench table complete with real flowers or candles as the centrepiece and engage in group conversations or in a smaller group at a nearby table or rug….just whatever is needed! To self -select art experiences, to choose if you want to get wet or dirty, to choose if you want to rest or play. It is the endless choices that make it so calm, so engaging. If it’s raining put on a raincoat, gum boots and play – jump in the puddles – live in the moment and enjoy what each day brings.