Interview with both Deputy Principals of Mt Terry Primary School, Mt Terry NSW, Heather Willets & Steven Hailstone, below.
If we could somehow package up both Deputy Principals of Mt Terry Primary School in NSW and send them on a road trip chatting with other schools about the positive outcomes of our Play-based learning Villages, then Jon and I could put our feet up!
The enthusiasm, stories and amazing feedback that Heather Willets and Steven Hailstone have shared with us some 18 months on from when we installed their Play-based Learning Village has been overwhelming to Jon and myself and gives us the wind beneath our wings to keep doing what we do best, building dreams for educators!
We hope you are inspired by this story.
Kel & Jono X
An Inspiring Education Client Story - Mt Terry Primary School
Heather’s enthusiasm was infectious as her vivid descriptions drew vivid images of scenes from the Terry Hills Cubby Village:
children skipping gleefully from cubby to cubby.
Impromptu performances by little actors entertaining their friends,
tiny waiters carefully serving ‘cappuccinos’ to their mums on kindy enrolment days
Heather Willets is one of the Deputy Principals at Mount Terry Public School, one of the first schools in NSW to install a village from ‘Castle and Cubby’.
As we listen to her, she tells us about the undiminished enjoyment of the children in having their own special place. Tiny versions of a police station, a veterinarian clinic, a grocery, a café and a stage form a semi-circle of brightly painted cubbies, selected by the school from Castle and Cubby’s wide range of themes.
“At first we wondered if the children’s enthusiasm would wane,” she told us, “But eighteen months after their arrival, the children love them more than ever.”
“The village provides such wonderful opportunities for the imagination to roam” she told us. “Little people today live in a world of screens and are often passive learners and observers of a ‘big people’ province. The Cubby Village provides a child-sized setting where children can be active learners and problem solvers: a place where they can live out their understanding of the adult world and find their own way of tackling the difficulties they encounter in that world.”
Heather is especially enthusiastic about the way in which the children have taken ownership of the village. Originally, the school thought that it might have to provide props and toys to kindle the creativity of the children. However, they have found that in the imaginative brains of the school’s youngest people, sticks and leaves, grass or stones become the trading currency of their shopping or the features of their games.
Heather recalls that one of the cutest things that she has noticed has been the very serious preparation of ‘speciality coffees’ in the café for visiting mothers; the careful way that payment is accepted in leaves - and the serious faces of the children as ‘change’ is carefully counted out and given.
For children who find the school playground too big, too busy, and too overwhelming, the cubby village provides a perfect place to play. The tiny houses provide safety, a child-dimension domain that is a perfect refuge for children who are anxious or upset. Heather has learned that if a child disappears, they are probably tucked safely in one or other of the cubbies. To talk with the young person, she too climbs into the cubby to sit down, to talk and to reassure. .
Steve Hailstone, another of the Deputy Principals at Mount Terry, talks about his experience with designing and purchasing the cubby village
“Working with Castle and Cubby was brilliant from the beginning and still is. They have an enormous range of designs to choose from, but their service and advice turned a complex enterprise into a pleasure. Jono helped every step of the way; helping us choose, sending and resending designs, providing advice and support, all within our budget.”
One of the things that we learned as we talked with Heather and Steve is that teachers use the cubbies very little in the formal curriculum. Occasionally, the stage is used as a setting for speeches and recitations. Even less often, a particular cubby may fit a theme that teachers are exploring. However, the teachers enjoy and respect the village as the children’s own oasis of creativity, a place where they can explore the imaginative dimensions of their lives without the intrusion of adults.
It seemed to us, listening to Heather and Steve, that the Cubbies at Mount Terry are very Dr Seuss-like:
Cubby-Ville in our school
Is for children to dream,
Of new shapes and colours
That have never been seen.
They can think about pirates,
Imagine new lands,
They can dream about ponies,
Oh, isn’t it Grand!
In our circle of Cubbies,
They can reach out for more.
And the more they keep dreaming,
the higher they’ll soar!