Revitalising Walford’s Early Learning Places and Spaces
It is with much anticipation that over the past six months the Walford Early Learning Centre’s outdoor play and learning spaces have been redesigned and rejuvenated. As part of these capital works projects, ELC Director Charmaine Brooks and her team have closely observed, listened to, and documented children’s play and interactions with the environment, alongside the opportunity to include parent consultation, throughout this reenergising process. This is certainly an exciting time moving forward for our Early Learning Centre, as part of the Walford community.
At the beginning of 2023, our outdoor learning spaces between our ELC buildings received a refreshing make over, to include purpose-built decking, natural grass and an extended sandpit, to better define the learning spaces and intentionally enhance the opportunities for zones of play and creativity.
This week we celebrate the opening of the play area at the front of the Walford ELC. This space has also been redeveloped to enable an enriched flow between indoor and outdoor play, alongside the priority of connecting our youngest learners with the natural world, throughout their early learning day.
This purpose-built space includes opportunities for gross and fine motor development, play, exploration, and collaboration. Educators carefully connect and provide scaffolding alongside young children’s play, in alignment with the Early Years Learning Framework and IB PYP conceptual Units of Inquiry, as these frameworks underpin the learning journeys that take place in our centre.
The Future of Learning Environments, Play, and a Renewed Sense of Flow
It is well researched and widely practiced, that human relationships engage and nurture early learners. Educators in early years settings undoubtably facilitate a sense of belonging and emotional security and this is experienced and felt deeply amongst our ELC and wider school community. Routines and rituals of the early learning day, emphasise self-regulation and encourage flexibility in thinking, as these will be the necessary foundations for later schooling and life.
It is equally important that we give emphasis to the physical environments in which young children explore and learn within – and increasingly, how children transition and move between these environments. We identify that play does not just happen – it is the way in which the spaces and learning provocations are designed, and the intentionality as to how materials and provocations are prepared, that will impact optimal learner engagement and enable educators to scaffold next steps for a personalised early learning experiences and enriched play.
The natural world and taking responsibility for a sustainable, natural world is becoming an increased focus of the practices in our Early Learning Centre. This provides a sense of calm and connection for young children; particularly as we navigate being part of busy households, increasing influenced by digitisation. Open-ended materials, manipulatives, attractive spaces, creativity, and imagination are prioritised and the removal of tasks with pre-determined end-products, are minimised. Carefully selected plantings have also been added, to enhance the visual and sensory appeal of our recently upgraded spaces and ELC children engage with the much-loved garden beds for their own short- and long-term projects.
As a professional learning community, our ELC educators are currently working on both streamlining and enhancing the documentation of the happenings and the rich conversations between educators and learners. This includes continuous feedback with families, showcasing the ways in which young children can competently express themselves using language, materials, images, and media, as they engage in our indoor and outdoor environments.
We are embarking on exciting times for early learning at Walford. As we continue to develop and work with our evolving learning spaces, the role of the educators and co-educators will also continue to evolve. There is renewed potential to draw on the strong relationships that are the foundation of our centre, as we further mentor our ELC children about their place in our learning environment, with strengthened intention, energy, and flow.
Mrs Kate Barber
Head of Junior School
Walford’s Early Learning Centre offers the childcare subsidy and is ideally located, near the Adelaide CBD, coastal suburbs and Adelaide Hills. We offer a rigorous early years program, with an emphasis on nurturing child-to-educator relationships and the opportunity for connections with natural world, in a predominantly urban setting. Playgroup is facilitated weekly, with an emphasis on connection, friendship and support for families.
Walford’s ELC offerings, include our 3-4 year-old program, with a minimum required enrolment of 2 days per week and our 4-5 year-old program, with a minimum required enrolment of 3 days per week. Both programs are closely connected with the Walford Junior School.
A Mid-Year Reception class is offered to girls beginning in Term 3 each year, who are continuing to Reception at school in the following year.
Extended before and after school hours are also offered, as part of the ELC, providing the opportunity of flexibility within a 7.30am – 6pm day.