Learning about the natural environment at St Nicholas Newcastle West in the 0-2 room
Emma Pratten, St Nicholas Newcastle West Assistant Director and 0-2 years room leader, has had her heart set on being an early educator since high school, where she built the foundations for her career by studying Children’s Services as part of her HSC. She has worked in both preschools and long day care for the past 15 years, and brings her own interests, in teaching kids about nature, to the centre.
Emma has a keen interest in teaching children in the 0-2 years room about nature, and has included activities such as planting a herb and flower garden as part of the curriculum. “For an inner city service we have really great outdoor spaces and natural environments. All the plants are at ground level so the children can crawl through and explore the garden in their own way,” said Emma. Children get to learn about where food comes from, and how to care for nature at a young age.
The children have also been enjoying sensory experiences, using things like Play-Doh and ‘goop’ that’s made of corn flour and water. “It’s all safe for them to eat, at that age everything goes in their mouth!” laughs Emma, “Although we do encourage them not to eat too much Play-Doh because it’s so salty!” The children are also making bubbles, painting and chalk drawing with big chunky chalks at the moment, as well as improving gross motor skills with climbing challenges where children are encouraged to climb different surfaces, improving balance.
Emma also loves building relationships with the children’s families. “When I came on board at St Nicholas, I asked to be with a younger age group as I wanted to challenge myself, because they’re so little it’s hard for the parents. “We always encourage families to give us a call during the day, especially during the first few weeks of care, when Mum and Dad can be in tears as well as the child,” said Emma. Being an inner city service, close to the CBD, parents can also just drop in to the centre at any time throughout the day. “We have quite a few mums who pop in to breast feed in their lunch breaks,” said Emma.
As well as being close to the CBD, there is a high staff to children ratio, with four full-time educators in the 0-2 room. “In that age group it’s great to have continuity of care. You’re always seeing the same faces and we get to know the children, so that’s nice to build those strong relationships with both the families and children,” said Emma. For working parents, the centre is also attractive as it offers longer hours and only closes for one week of the year, at Christmas.
Staff at St Nicholas also understand the importance of each child’s routine, “We try to follow each child’s individual routine as much as possible so we don’t have a set sleep time or eating time. Every child is different in terms of feeding, bottles and sleeping so that’s something we really try to embrace and accommodate as much as possible,” said Emma.
St Nicholas Newcastle West is now nearing capacity, however there are days with vacancies, so please phone Centre Director, Toni Warburton, on 4979 1136 for further information.