St Mary’s Preschool consists of two rooms. These rooms can be used as one large space or can be used separately. We tend to separate the two, ensuring we have a quieter room that offers mindfulness experiences and quieter cognitive tasks such as puzzles, books or drawing. Offering a quieter space helps children to self-regulate their emotions and assists them to focus and concentrate on tasks in a less stimulating environment. Our larger space offers a range of experiences such as construction, art and craft, dramatic play and messy type experiences. Tabletop activities are also provided in this space where we focus on skills such as cutting, drawing and name writing in preparation for Kindergarten.
This tree was planted on 7th December 1999 in dedication for our student Joseph O’Halloran, who was tragically killed in an accident. In respect of this, our children do not climb this tree.
Our sandpit has been architecturally designed and features large sandstone boulders providing the perfect location to be imaginative whilst exploring mathematical concepts such as cause and effect and trial and error. It supports their well being as they learn to take risks and be aware of others in the space.
The sandpit is a popular play space as it encompasses our water pump which flows down into the sandpit allowing water to be added as a new medium providing open ended opportunities to learn and discover.
Our mud kitchen was purpose built in 2019 allowing light and air to circulate throughout the design, whilst the windows capture the sunlight projecting beautiful colours through the space. The mud kitchen allows children to engage in pretend and messy play by cooking with mud, sand and water, using real world utensils such as saucepans, pots, bowls, spoons and an oven for pretend baking. Many children gravitate towards this imaginative play area where they can get their hands dirty, role play and explore pretend play scenarios, supporting both their social skills, language development and confidence.
We have two cubbies that foster imagination and creativity. A play cubby is an area made especially for children to create their own space, giving them a sense of independence. While creating their play spaces this helps improve their communication, develop empathy, and build important social interactions required for reciprocal relationships.
St Mary's is an inclusive community-based preschool where we welcome and encourage all families and their culture. Within our curriculum, we teach the children about our Aboriginal culture and proudly fly all three flags in recognition of our history, both past, present and future. As educators, it is our responsibility to embed our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture so our future children have understanding, respect and a sense of belonging that brings positive changes and cultural diversity amongst us all.
The Aboriginal Totem Poles were created and donated by a community member for St Mary’s Preschool and encompasses our Firepit area.
Loose Parts Play Area
Loose parts is the perfect space to get creative and use your imagination. With a variety of real-world materials such as bricks, pavers, logs, tubes, stumps, rope and crates, the children have the opportunity to work collaboratively together on a project. An element of risk is involved when utilising this space but it’s an opportunity for us to teach resilience, guidelines around keeping ourselves and others safe and spatial awareness. It allows the children to explore the link between home and preschool and showcases their thoughts and ideas.
The fort can become your Castle, your home, a shop or even a Library. It is the perfect space to get creative and use your imagination. Climbing on the fort supports the development of the children’s fine and gross motor skills, building of strong muscles, language and cognitive function. Climbing helps the working memory to improve which in turn helps the memory in the classroom. An element of risk is involved when utilising this space but it’s an opportunity for us to teach resilience, guidelines around keeping ourselves and others safe and spatial awareness. The children learn to evaluate risks, take caution, and gain confidence.
Alfresco Dining Area
Our Alfresco area was completed at the end of 2021 from a Drought Grant and additional funds raised by our preschool families. Previously the area due to drought and being under trees, had no grass and was a dusty dry area. This has now been transformed into a beautiful area containing five tables and adorned underneath by cultural mosaic animals/shapes. The children love this area to have their lunch and it is also used for special events such as our recent Mother’s Day celebrations.
Few preschools would have their very own man-made running creek bed which provides endless fun and laughter for all on summer days. The creek bed is lined with beautiful rocks and foliage which provides an environment to enhance their gross motor skills, coordination, and physical fitness through lifting, pouring, carrying, running and splashing. Children develop hand-eye coordination, learn to understand heavy/light, float/sink, full/empty and shallow/deep. They also learn to concentrate and solve problems; share and cooperate with others.
Our ampetheatre is the perfect stage for dancing, singing, acting or performing. With its multiple levels the children can set the scene on their own dramatic ideas, allowing their creative imagination come to life. This is also where our end of year concerts are held, giving families optimal viewing as they sit on the grassy hill watching their children perform.
Our chickens are a huge part of preschool and caring for them is the responsibility of the children. They assist in feeding them, filling up their water dishes and collecting the eggs. We have a very successful breeding program here at the preschool with multiple hatchings occurring each year. This in itself is a wonderful teachable moment as we observe the life cycle of the chicken. Having pets at preschool encourages the children to show empathy and kindness. They are very much apart of our preschool free ranging in our beautiful preschool environment.
“The Castle” is a base from a very old large tree in our preschool grounds, cut into the shape of a castle. Children love having pretend play on this. It provides their physical strength development, resilience, focus, concentration and learning to evaluate adventurous play.
During the cooler months we light our campfire and use it for a variety of reasons. Educating the children around fire safety is paramount and encompasses all we do when risk is involved. Traditionally, we cook a camp oven for our Dad’s for Father’s Day and invite them into the preschool for a community lunch. We sit around the fire and teach the children about our Aboriginal history and use dream time stories to embed the culture of the past. When it is not lit the children will use this space creatively within their play, often singing or chatting around the fire.
Our Therapy Dog "Jessie"
Jessie is our resident therapy dog who visits the older age group weekly. Jessie is a three-year-old Spoodle and is our Educational Leader, Kelly’s responsibility.
Jessie and Kelly completed a four-day intensive therapy dog training course in 2020 to ensure she was suitable for the preschool environment. Jessie also completes a recertification course annually to ensure she is still compatible to attend Preschool.
Having a therapy dog attend preschool has so many benefits, including assisting children with their emotions, self-regulating at group time, develops empathy and brings a sense of calm to the environment. Jessie is loved by all who meet her, and she equally loves her preschool days.
At St Mary's Preschool we proudly fly our Nation's three flags in recognition of the First Nations people and the Torres Strait Islander people. Our flags began flying from 2020, after we discussed the importance of representing the people of Australia. Involving the children in the process created teachable moments and allowed them to understand the importance of Australian history. Each morning and afternoon the children are respectful in raising and lowering our flags and know the importance of respecting each flag and the meaning behind the symbols that are represented on the flags.