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The Yellow Sand Pit: Why is it Such a Big Deal?

WRITTEN BY: Gabbi Lovelady

Our friend, outdoor educator Rusty Keeler, waxes lyrical about sand in Exchange Mar/Apr 2014 edition;

“Sand, yes, humble sand, is the ultimate “loose part”. Children can mold, sift, sculpt, dig, and pile. Through the pouring and sifting of sand they see cosmic properties of the planet. They touch the universe in a grain of sand and the sand creations they make reflect their imagination and spirit.”

This area was an intentional design by our Pedagogista, Gill McAuliffe.  It is defined by the physical boundaries of the logs and by its distinctive colour.

There is the important mix of sand and water to bring about change, chance and challenge.  The addition of loose parts allows the shift from functional play to dramatic play and construction play.

It has its own curriculum.

Apart from the obvious gross motor benefits, cognitive development is fostered because of the high level thinking involved in the problem solving and negotiation of rules.  There is science and math involved in exploring mass, capacity, properties and experimenting with cause and effect.  And there is the all important social learning – even the youngest child at parallel play stage will learn to deal with disputes over boundaries and equipment.  Those who are playing co-operatively will be communicating, compromising and experiencing what can be achieved when you work as a team.

The care and maintenance of the area is of equal importance in terms of learning, as the play. 

69944dd8-5934-47c4-b73b-b858c424ea3f_6bfbe45cThe children from Pre Kindy, Kindy and EC5 have all had discussions at meeting time to establish guidelines for the use of the area and its materials.  The children are developing a shared responsibility and pride.  They have come up with ideas such as “yellow stays with the yellow” meaning that they realise the sand will soon disappear if it is allowed to leave the area.

Sorting and washing the equipment and loose parts after use builds respect for the materials and allows the children to easily find them for play the next day.  E.g the rocks and small logs are not spread all over the playground and the spades and trucks are on the shelf.  Stiff brushes are within reach to clean off their clothes.  The bridge needs to be swept frequently for safety.  The teaching teams have modelled behaviour and helped the children facilitate systems to enable success and independence.

We know that families who use this area after hours (and indeed the EC Playground in general) will support their children in achieving the standards of care that their classes and teaching teams aspire to.

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