Penny is involved in gardening and playground development at Gerringong Public School. As more natural materials are included in the playground, the affinity between children and the natural world becomes so clear.
At the moment there is a huge peak in the popularity of what I describe as “tiny worlds” play. The imagination, complex narratives and imaginary inhabitants involved here are so evident. If you don’t supply children with loose parts they will find it, often in destructive ways, stripping trees of bark and so on. Better to provide plenty of different loose materials to ensure the plants can keep growing! And to encourage respect of living things, for children to think about whether the flowers are abundant enough to pick a few, or whether picking the one flower might take away that plants’ chance at setting seed or remove a vital food source for an animal. This leads in to discussions about how eco-systems work and model our more adult struggles with complex issues around resource management and sustainability! Meanwhile the kids are developing economies of seed pods, trading, designing villages, storehouses
and constructing shelters that just keep getting better and better. I have such fond memories myself of this kind of play at school. Long may the tiny worlds reign!