Making the transition from preschool to "big school" is traditionally a huge step for children and parents alike, but it doesn't have to be that way.
Kindergarten students across the Maitland-Newcastle Diocese are taking part in a new program, Successful Foundations, and it is proving the secret to learning really could be as simple as child's play.
Successful Foundations is a positive, play-based action research project that transitions early learners to school and helps establish collaborative relationships between children, families, teachers and the community.
The program was developed by Maitland-Newcastle Diocese Catholic schools office early learning officer, Kim Moroney in consultation with Australian Catholic University former early childhood education senior lecturer, Cathie Harrison.
"Relationships are everything in teaching and the Successful Foundations program really helps to build relationships and understand where the kids are and what they know.- Suzie Monks
Successful Foundations supports the diocese's early learning policy and strengthens classroom practices.
This year, Holy Name Primary School, Forster is one of eight new schools adopting the program, after it was piloted with great success at 11 schools in 2019.
The strength the diocese places on relationships underpins the program.
"Relationships are everything in teaching and the Successful Foundations program really helps to build relationships and understand where the kids are and what they know," Holy Name Primary School, Forster spokesperson, Suzie Monks said.
Holy Name implemented the program at the start of the 2020 school year.
In the first five weeks of school, kindergarten students are given a learning block at the start of each day to engage with a variety of open-ended, play-based provocations.
The hour of play-based learning provides students with the opportunity to actively demonstrate their funds of knowledge, build relationships and become familiar with the context of the school.
It also provides teachers with the chance to become familiar with students and their families.
Sarah Praschincer from Holy Name said the school had introduced play provocations last year and one aim this year was to concentrate on the debrief about the play in which the children have been engaged.
"Practising that listening and getting up and being able to share the situations and problem-solving and everything that has come through the play," she said.
"Kim keeps saying, 'walk along the journey with us'.
"Oral language is important.
"You get to know the students in a whole different way once you have that knowledge to observe play.
"It's interesting what they've been through."
Ms Moroney said when the children immerse themselves in play it provides a power for learning and wellbeing.
"Our educators set up meaningful provocations such as florists or vet shopfronts, or building environments, which are designed to engage the students and provides us with a pedagogy of listening and observation," she said.
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"We step back and watch students so we can see all their capability.
"We're seeing their interests and all the things they can do. Not just through literacy and numeracy, but socially, interaction, problem-solving, collaboration and creativity.
"All of that is there in Successful Foundations."
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