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A Day in the Life at Haileybury's Early Learning Centres

NEWS 2 Sept 2021

A great Early Learning Centre can set children on the path to an exciting and rewarding educational experience. A key element of a good ELC is providing a comprehensive program that covers all aspects of child development.

Haileybury’s ELC Program provides a safe environment for children to have fun, develop social skills and learn educational concepts that help them to understand their world. Each ELC has a carefully developed, evidence-based learning program that sees children develop important social and academic skills through a range of enjoyable and stimulating activities.

“Our program is based on the child’s interests,” says Director of ELC Dr Rachel Pollitt.

“We create a program that supports children’s learning through self-determination. Children can choose to follow their interests and our skilled early childhood educators harness each child’s curiosity and link this to an aspect of our program that contingently responds to the child’s learning needs.”

All ELCs acknowledge the importance of developing literacy and numeracy skills and daily activities that promote these skills are embedded in each ELC program. So, on any day of the week, what other kinds of activities might ELC children at Haileybury engage in?

ELC Newlands: “One of our educators, Sakan Pyseth, is passionate about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) and he’s developed experiments with the children to help them understand how ideas can grow,” says Lisa Christopher, Head of ELC at Newlands.

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Educator, Sayan Pyseth, is passionate about STEM and encourages the students to conduct STEM related experiments

“Sakan has taken children for a walk around the Keysborough campus to take photos of different things, including a plane flying overhead. He spoke to them about the fact that planes did not exist many years ago and the children discussed how the idea that things could fly came about and their interests have expanded further to include space travel.”

Another educator at Newlands ELC, Caitlin Wood, has developed a multicultural cooking program with families sharing their special recipes. This has led to children making wattle seed brownies and talking about the nutritional value of ‘bush tucker’ foods.

ELC Castlefield: At Castlefield, children created a fire pit that is a favourite meeting place.

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The children's fire pit at Castlefield ELC

“The fire pit came from the children being interested in camping, and educators brought in pop-up tents and made a campground. Children collected logs and role-played pretending to cook on a campfire,” says Dr Pollitt.

Building on this interest, over a 12-month period, the Haileybury community and children created a fire pit that is often a focus of ELC gatherings and events. This has led to further discussion about types of fire and its purpose and of Aboriginal cultures and histories. Jaeden Williams, a proud Yalukit Willam man, is a regular visitor and contributor at Castlefield and over the past six years has become an integral part of the teaching and learning team at the ELC by teaching dance, storytelling and art and conducting a Welcome to Country smoking ceremony.

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Jaeden Williams, a proud Yalukit Willam man, regularly joins us to share about Aboriginal culture and history

“A series of woven ‘pods’ are also a feature at Castlefield and they came from an inquiry into children’s rights to privacy and how to create spaces for quiet time and reflection. The team thought about how to create a space outdoors and, working with an artist in residence, Gay Chatfield, they tapped into the children’s interests and skills to weave and create the outdoor pods,” says Dr Pollitt.

ELC City: At Haileybury’s City campus, children make the most of their surroundings with Flagstaff Gardens providing plenty of learning and exploring opportunities.

“Recently there was live footage of a falcon nesting in the CBD. You could watch the birds feeding, see the eggs hatch and see the baby birds. This sparked the children’s curiosity in learning about life cycles, collecting data about the birds in their local environment and expanding on their rooftop garden to attract more wildlife,” says Dr Pollitt.

“Those kinds of experiences allow children to invest in the outdoor environment and make it their own.”

Pre-Prep children have also explored their interest in machines and have learned about energy and motion. They created their own pulley systems and experimented with different tools to gain a better understanding of how machines actually work.

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The outdoor garden on the rooftop is a source of great wonder and enjoyment for our City children.

ELC Edrington: Children’s interest in sustainability led to a project at Edrington that created a picturesque informal meeting space for children where they can sit together and talk—referred to as ‘yarning time’.

“Together the children and educators created a beautiful outside environment for their ‘meeting place’. Consequently, Edrington ELC is designing an Indigenous garden that will help children learn more about local wildlife and sustainability, as well as finding real-world application for numeracy and literacy learning,” says Dr Pollitt.

“These projects evolve based on the interests and open inquiry of each child. For example, children might be outside with a mortar and pestle making ‘potions’ out of flowers and leaves. This may lead to questions about why some things grow in our garden and others don’t, which could then lead to explorations about soil and climate and which part of the garden gets the most sun and why. Educators are highly skilled at identifying how to link each child’s interests to their learning and to ‘teachable moments’.”