Providing A Suitable Outdoor Learning Space – shade and urgent sun protection for Lismore Preschool children displaced and disadvantaged by 2022 floods
Lismore Community Preschool was devastated by the 2022 floods, the buildings were destroyed and many of the children also lost their homes. After only one term, the preschool was relocated and able to reopen – albeit in temporary buildings – at Lismore Public School. However, there was no shade protection afforded to the children on the northwestern side of the playground so despite its ample size, it was unusable due to full sun exposure.
A community grant from NRCF enabled the preschool to purchase and install three 8m shade sails on the northwestern side of the playground allowing for outdoor play. Outdoor nature pedagogy research indicates high quality outdoor play environments are supportive of trauma and have a positive impact on anxiety, depression, social and emotional wellbeing. Furthermore, Cancer Council Australia deems adequate sun protections/shade imperative for young children. Many of the children that attend Lismore Preschool remain in temporary accommodation and preschool is the only opportunity for them to safely play outdoors.
This project has allowed staff to design the area under the shade sail, providing a range of play space ideas and bringing resources from inside the classroom outside. The playground has been further developed with climbing equipment and a new digging area under the sails. The renewed flexibility in accessibility of the play space has also allowed for support practitioners to visit and use the outdoor learning spaces as an extension of their educational program.
The children are thrilled with the outcome, with one child expressing, “I can feel how cool it is under the shade sail.”