St Joseph's Primary School Malvern - Play Based Learning Space

St Joseph's Primary School Malvern - Play Based Learning Space

Posted by Kellie Macpherson on

Interview with Principal of St Joseph's Primary School, Malvern VIC, Michelle Moore & teacher Marta Cummings, below. 

Waaahhhh we could not be happier with our newest Play-based learning space! Seriously we have the BEST job!

Working for St Joseph's Primary School in Malvern VIC was a dream, we got to work with the most glorious school Principal and teachers who were so excited for us to work with them and who brought tears to Jon and my eyes with their positive feedback and support of our business.

If you could bottle up the good intent of Principal Michelle Moore you could sell that stuff! Michelle's desire to enrich the experience of her students and teachers and to support them in their development is EXACTLY what you want from your principals. (We interviewed Michelle and teacher Marta Cummings about the new space, the process and the outcomes below - be sure to read)

We are so proud of the space we have created from a quality perpesctive as well as the enrichment it has brought to the school immediately. Knowing that so many kids are benefiting from our dreams and hard work brings us pure joy. From the bottom of Jon and my hearts we wish St Jospehs ALL the best and we will be here when you need us for touch ups and possible renovations in the future.

Kel & Jono X


Why were you seeking a new imagination play space?

We have a few more traditional play spaces as well as sports areas like soccer & netball. We were lacking connection to nature and more imaginative play. When we saw children trying to dig up bits of soil from the ground in one of the nature strips, we knew that we had to do something to address that need.

How were the kids playing before the new space?

Play was generally casual, within age groups and lacked connection. There wasn't any sustained play between the older children and the younger children and certainly not on an imaginative level.

What drew you towards Castle & Cubby's play based learning spaces?

I stumbled across Castle and Cubby and the Mini Eco Village and that was it, I knew that was the solution for us. Your innovative and attractive designs immediately drew us in.

How did your community respond to the suggestion of a Castle and Cubby play space?

I took it to the school board and the Parents and Friends Association and presented the Village and they instantly loved it! The idea was that throughout 2021 we would raise money through fundraising activities with the parents and friends to pay for the cubby houses. In the end we couldn't actually go ahead with fundraising so our school paid in full because we wanted to invest straight away and not wait.

A lot of the parents were familiar with Castle and Cubby, so people were excited.

How did you find the process of working with Castle and Cubby?

The discussions with the team from Castle and Cubby started immediately and the plans were ready to go quickly. They sent along some great images and plans of what the space could look like to present to the community so people knew what to expect. We did a few tweaks and changes along the way, colour selections and all of it was no problem at all. Once they were built offsite and ready to go, it was two days and the village was ready to go.

How has the product matched your expectation?

They're really high quality, superbly built, beautifully presented. They've been really robust and have withstood a lot of mud and active play. They're awesome!

How did the kids react to the new space?

Well, on day one, after the summer holidays when we opened the gates there was a lot of excitement! They were jam-packed and we almost had to put a roster in place.

And that was all children, prep to year six, five-year-olds to 12-year-olds. Everybody was in there and they were very excited. I had been concerned that the novelty would wear off, but it has not waned at all. We are 3/4 through the term and those cubbies are still jam-packed at break times with all of the children from prep to year six.

What type of play have you been observing?

I think the amazing thing is seeing children from across the year levels working together. It's 10-year-olds working with six-year-olds and preps working with the year fours. It's so amazing to see. For those children who maybe just wanted a bit of a break, they can find a friend there, it doesn't matter what age they are.

It's been amazing that it has brought the whole school community together and also left a lot more space for those children who want to play soccer and football on the playing fields.

What interesting interactions and conversations have you been hearing?

With the picnic benches installed as well as the cubbies, it's become a coffee shop area. So you'll see children being the baristas and customers.

One of the year four boys, quite a sporty boy came to me one day and said, "Mrs. Moore, I've just been out of my shop to get some stock and the preps have taken over and my shop is now gone." And so they take it very seriously that it's their space, but also they're sharing it with each other.

I've heard conversations with the year ones and twos about what ingredients they'll put in their soup. So all sorts of imaginative play and just a lot of cooperation amongst the different ages.

How has this play space changed your school ?

I thought it would mostly benefit children who wanted to get dirty in nature and imagiantion, I didn't fully realize the impact that it would have in terms of connecting children across the school.

The teachers will be using it for their lessons, so for instance will have literature circles in the different houses with the older students as part of the English lesson. So it offers a space where it is multipurpose, which is important. We can use it for imaginative play. We can use it for sustainability play and that nature play, but we can also integrate it more formally, into the curriculum.

How has the wider community responded to the space?

We're quite overwhelmed with the response from the children and the parents feel the same. I think they are very appreciative that there is an alternative here for the children, that it has added some color to the playground. Something a bit more interesting and different. We are all thrilled with the village.

Your final thoughts on the investment you have made?

Well, it was a risk with the cost obviously. We had to be sure that it would provide some benefit. It's gone above and beyond that for us. So you can overcapitalize with what you do in a playground, but this has been the best investment that we could have made for our students, in that it's provided this area for them.

For our new students, transitioning into prep next year, they come to visit the school and they immediately fall in love with it. So it will help in that transition process.

And also it's freed up the space on the rest of the playground for the students to play the other games they want to play like footy and soccer and netball and basketball.

So it's been an amazing investment, far more than I could have hoped for. So thank you, Castle and Cubby.

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