Sunday, January 2, 2011

what rusty said: who are the people in your neighbourhood

In this 4th post in the "What Rusty Said: Creating Natural Playscapes Serieswe'll continue to look at Rusty Keeler's tips for kick starting your natural playscape project.

What are your community resources?

Make a list of the resources that are available in your centre and wider community: 

:::What are the natural features of your neighbourhood?
:::What type of materials to you have access to?
:::What are your people resources?

This list will form design palate.  Your playscape design will evolve as you start to see what community resources are available to you.

What are the natural features of your neighbourhood?

A natural playscape in an Australian setting will be different to a natural playscape in the northern part of the world:

Dry Creek Bed in the Hush Garden ::: Irresistible Ideas for Play Based Learning

A willow hut in an American playscape:

Image:  Earthplay
might become a stick humpy or a bush cubby in Australia:

Hurstbridge Learning Co-op

What local natural elements can you add to your playscape?  Think along the lines of: 

  • native plantings appropriate to climate conditions
  • local artists
  • neighbourhood history
  • seasonal changes
  • local terrain
  • local architecture and building materials
  • availability of natural elements:  are there places to gather boulders or old logs; stones from a local river; driftwood from the beach?
Native ornamental grasses add a sense of place at the Point Preschool

Who are the people in your neighbourhood?

List the skills and talents available in your centre: artists; carpenters; landscapers; builders; avid gardeners; keen grandparents or blokes with tools.  

The topsoil for our dirt patch was donated and delivered by a parent who has a landscaping business.

List the resources in your local community: recycling centres, nurseries, eco-gardens; council programs; grants; hardware shops, building sites, artist communities; flora and fauna groups.
The new owner of a local nursery turned out to be an ex-student:  he helped us set up our veggie garden.

A local mosaic artist work in progress at the Point Preschool

We visited our local eco-garden to learn more about local "bush tucker"
We visited a local nursery and they donated herbs for our garden.

And don't forget the items literally in your own backyards and sheds: pots; logs; pallets; paint; lattice and more.  

Imagine how wonderful it will be to have the children playing in an outdoor environment that both reflects and is connected to their community and local natural environment!

Next in the series:


  1. Hi Jenny

    I'm sorry you're net getting more comments from others - your "Rusty" posts are great.

    When I do whole day courses for teachers and pre-school staff, I take them on a walkabout - wherever that might be - in their local neighbourhood and ask them to do the same with their children.

    I have a photo of a beautiful "enterprise park" for conferences. I tell the story of an Early Years adviser who drove past it for two years. She had never walked there. She along with everyone else on the course did not realise that the mosaic was in fact a water feature. Better still, when given the freedom to explore, all the participants discovered that the water feature was not slippy and ideal for little children to play in.

    The other point about going walkabout is that it saves money. For example I work with a school that discovered the neighbouring house has a beautiful pond - so they decided that they could have other features in their grounds instead.

    Another very useful practice is to Go Visiting! Take a bunch of kids to visit other playspaces and pre-schools - this works better than a PowerPoint show cos children get to explore and play. The adults can observe the choices and interests and make informed decisions. Go to woodlands and natural spaces as well as play parks and pre-schools.

    In fact developing one's outdoor space is a jolly good excuse for having lots of fun and exciting trips.

    PS Sorry to harp on about involving the children. It's about my only grumble with Rusty - there's not enough emphasis on this in his books and websites. But he is inspirational and wonderful (hey Rusty - please don't be offended should you read this - having a "Mindstretchers" photo on your book cover is a fantastic thing, just for starters, before anyone even opens your book).

  2. Thank you for this inspiring series of posts! The information and photos are so helpful. I'm so grateful for the amazing early childhood blogs like yours out there in the blogosphere...however much I think I know, I learn something new each day I click on my blog favorites. Playscapes will enter our school this year!

  3. Hey blogger friend, I love your blog and I think you really deserve an award which is waiting for you at my blog! I am so happy I found you!

  4. Juliet: Sorry it has taken so long to reply but want you to know that I love reading your comments and find them so useful. I love the idea of going for a walk. And fear not...children will be coming at the end of the series so I can include them in all stages! I agree that including kids every step of the way is integral to the process. We do it at preschool with the small projects we have taken on and the kids have such ownership over the environment because of it.

    Tami: Thanks so much for the award! I'm honoured and glad you are enjoying the blog.

  5. hey Jenny
    I have only just found this blog...where did you hide it?? Brilliant and I love so many of Rusty's ideas too - great that you have made the comparison showing Australian examples.