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It’s been 10 years since The Gums Childcare Centre opened. Responding to a need in the community for quality early years’ education and care, the centre was established by Alex and Sid Nicholls in 2006.
“We believe that children are capable, confident citizens in our community, and we have found them to thrive in our nature-rich learning environments,” Alex said.
“Nature allows children to develop curiosity, use their imaginations, build confidence, measure their own risk and develop trusting relationships.”
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The centre’s Bush Block is an integral part of learning across its Baby, Toddler and Early Learning Centre spaces. The Bush Block is a two-acre piece of wild and unfenced bushland located behind the centre.
It has giant red gums, logs, boulders, slopes, ditches and a pile of ‘dinosaur bones’ – a 1.5m high pile of old grey, gnarled looking tree stumps. Grasses, trees and shrubs are planted and the Hutt River borders the area.
Children can test the water level, explore the creek floor, scale trees to pick red plums, play on a tyre swing and more.
“Our Bush Block provides places for creative dramatic, exploratory and scientific play, and places for sole or shared contemplation, not just physical play,” Alex said.
“The Gums Bush Block has become recognised within the early childhood profession as a site of ‘best pedagogical practice’ and as such we have had the privilege to present about our journey in the Bush Block, at the Malarkey National Play and Play work conference in Melbourne earlier this year; and soon after we were also invited to present at the Nature Play SA National conference in Adelaide.”
Another exciting venture at The Gums is its Early Learning Centre, that was first implemented in 2012 to provide a kindergarten education to children in the year prior to school. The Gums works with local schools to prepare children for school.
The Early Learning Centre allows students to become familiar with a primary school setting and its expectations.
“We do this by providing a specialist program in conjunction with Vineyard Lutheran School that includes a Perceptual Motor Program (PMP), that aims to develop the child’s perceptions and understandings of him/ her self and his/her world, through movement and motor experiences,” Alex said.
A buddy class program allows children to interact with older children from school, which helps assist with student transition to primary learning, develop positive cross-age relationships and provide opportunities for peer tutoring.
A weekly German lesson involves the children in a play-based way, working on numbers, simple phrases and exploring the country and culture of Germany.