Wednesday, December 8, 2010

a tour of the point preschool in sydney

I was thrilled to bits to attend a talk given by Rusty Keeler, author of "Natural Playscapes: Creating Learning Environments for the Soul".  I even introduced myself and took his photo like an over eager semi-stalkerish natural playscapes groupie! 

But more about Rusty in a future post.

Firstly I want to set the scene by showing you around The Point Preschool in Sydney, where the event was held.  The Point is an inspiring example of what it is possible for us all to achieve relatively inexpensively in our own outdoor playspaces, even when you don't have much space to work with. 

Let me show you a few of the things that tickled my fancy:

Natural cubbies in the sandpit, with lots of lovely natural "loose parts" for creative and imaginative play.

A living cubby.

Rather like a bean teepee, but not if you know what I mean.

Inviting places to sit and pause; touches of colour, comfort and interest.

Layered seating in a covered area that could be a stage, a meeting place...anything really.  The plantings in pots dotted around the playspace are perfect for smaller outdoor areas.

Interesting artworks scattered around to catch your eye and imagination.

Wind chimes and mobiles to add the elements of sound and movement.

This is a small space, but it feels larger because it has been creatively divided into outdoor "rooms" through the clever use of levels, plantings and pathways.

You all know that I'm nuts about loose parts in a playspace, especially those of the natural variety.  I love the way they are placed invitingly around the playground.

Branches, bark, sticks, tree cookies...these are all free people!

Baskets full of nature's gifts next to the sand pit:

The use of  plantings of grasses, clumped together to define play areas is something that I would like to add to our playspace:


I walked away from The Point with a renewed understanding that to create places of wonder, beauty and learning for children you don't need a truck load of money.  The ideas I photographed for our preschool are all very achievable on a low budget.

What you do need is vision, support from your school community and local community and time.  The Point Preschool environment has been a work in progress for 10 years and is still evolving.

As Rusty told us at the end of his talk:

Dream big.  Start small.  Never stop. 


  1. Thanks for this, all your photos are wonderfully inspiring. Oh, and yes, I would also have been a semi-stalkerish photographer if I got to meet Rusty Keeler in person.

  2. These photos are FAB. Rusty is also signed up on C&NN Connect so folks can "chat" to him there.

    I'd also like to flag up a jaw-droppingly beautiful and inspirational book from Sharon Danks called "From Asphalt to Ecosystems" - it goes one step further and includes ecological features integrated in to school grounds designs - lots of photos from The Coombes School, Frode Svane's trip to Berlin and Copenhagen, etc.

    Thanks for sharing - super as usual

  3. This looks like an amazing place to learn and play! I wish more preschools and primary schools would adopt this type of outdoor play instead of the plastic playgrounds!

  4. Very cool! Thanks for sharing all of your photos. Looks like a very inviting play space.

  5. Wow and to think Jenny, we were just one Saturday away from joining you there! I feel really inspired by your pictures and I reckon If Rusty's words don't inspire people to try some of these ideas, nothing will! ... "Dream big ... Start small ... Never Stop" ... I mean how beautiful is that!
    Donna :) :)

  6. You got to meet Rusty Keeler?!! Awesome!!

  7. Thank you for sharing. Love this outdoor space. Do you know what plants are used for the Teepee/tunnel? It didn't look like a bean climber. :)