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Creating a Sense of Place with Cultural Resources

Creating gathering places is made simpler by using floor rugs and cushions that offer colour, texture, and inspiration. The artwork and designs on many of them have been personally created by First Nations artists that reflect aspects of local areas.

Written by: Joanne Harris - Early Years Advisor  

Creating a space for children and their families to feel welcome is integral for them to feel safe to actively participate and engage. More broadly speaking, it is an opportunity to discover the significance of place to First Nations people which can deepen our understanding and appreciation for living in Australia.

The responsibility of creating responsive play spaces that reflect flexibility and sensitivity is something that every member of the learning community should be working towards. Through meaningful conversations which involve listening and speaking to individuals at a deeper level, it invites the opportunity for many voices to be considered.

Children are naturally curious to interact with the world around them. Having meaningful encounters with people, objects and places nurtures their development through a desire to understand how the world works around them.

Places can evoke and inspire many things, including curiosity, excitement, reflection, peace, and perhaps most importantly connection, which can fluctuate during different times of the day, seasons, or events in which people are active in these locations.

Developing a Sense of Place

Creating gathering places is made simpler by using floor rugs and cushions that offer colour, texture, and inspiration. The artwork and designs on many of them have been personally created by First Nations artists that reflect aspects of the local areas they live and their cultural heritage. Sharing these stories can offer personal insight and topics of conversation about the similarities and differences of the geographical locations around the country.

These could inspire children to explore their local environments, close to the spaces they learn and play, which might lead them to give life to their own art, music, and storytelling opportunities. Children may like to draw or paint aspects of the environment around them using inspiration from local plants and flowers, arranged in vases or tinker trays, set up next to a free-standing painting easel, or alternatively a tabletop version. Children can explore the movement and sound of amazing natural Aussie nut rollers. Made from Quandongs, these are indigenous bush food and medicine. Youngiana caps are a recycled waste product. 


Reflect on the importance of place as an anchor for learning

The function of an anchor is to provide stability and keep a boat or vessel in place during rough waters. In terms of learning, the location of where it is taking place is not solely physical. Creating a secure environment is largely provided by the leadership of the educators who are responsible for children and families.

When a play space is considered beyond its physical objects there is also scope to reflect on the significance of its place in the wider community and beyond. Careful consideration of the way furniture and resources are placed can positively affect the sense of energy and activity of the children.

Bellbird’s Seasonal Natural Play Dough Kit set up as a provocation encourages multisensory play to explore the texture and form of native pods in their play, which could be extended in collecting more local flora from outdoor areas.

Looking for and listening to the conversation that is generated can support children in developing a respect for the natural world and the potential to gain more knowledge about the environment around them, bringing them closer to the feeling of trust and safety. Adding clay to wooden Australian animals with resin wood slices to make small-world play scenes such as beaches, deserts, or grasslands is a simple way to explore the varying landscapes of our country.



How the Natural Learning Environment Influences Us

Viewing the outdoors with as much value as indoor learning spaces can facilitate a greater understanding of our needs as human beings. Learning to live with the elements by observing nature can provide greater insights with respect to the importance of having both.

There are many examples to be learned through the ancient stories of the Dreamtime which can resonate with all Australians. Oral storytelling is extremely significant to First Nations with deep knowledge and connection to the land we call home.

Sharing the reading of the book Open Your Heart to Country can open a guided conversation in which educators discuss aspects of this story relating to characters from a First Nations perspective. This book emphasises the importance of place for all Australians through both words and illustrations.


Reading and storytelling within an outdoor setting can support the developing connection between learners and the environment. Revisiting the story by exploring the elements can help to cement the learning concepts such as those of First Nations artists to keep them ‘alive’ through creating art to ‘share… life’s movements through space and time.’

Setting up outdoor places to encourage relaxation and reflection with resources such as the Green Wattle Emro Cushion and sharing the Bundjalung artist Christine Slabb’s inspiration behind it bring a genuine and intuitive perspective for children to consider as they learn to engage with nature. Encouraging children to look deeper for the signs of nature such as the intricate markings animals or patterns left behind.

Providing elements such as paint, brushes, paper, pencils, and charcoal pieces set up in a dedicated art area can invite children to record the changes they are seeing and experiencing whilst nature blossoms around them. Aboriginal Artist, Kamara Morgan was inspired by ‘watching her family paint which gave her the confidence to portray her story and the stories of her country and culture.’


Wherever children are living and learning it is important for them to know that they have a place that they can connect to, and they are encouraged to play without interruption and have ample time and space to explore and interact with their resources. Supporting children to acknowledge the country that they are on can help them feel a sense of belonging.

Coming together to set learning intentions for the day, to be encouraged to ask questions, and to interact with the wider environment that they associate with in these spaces can inspire them to feel safe and secure in their learning. Knowing that they have a place to return to, to share and reinforce their learning experiences provides an anchor for genuine connection beyond physical resources.

For more ideas and information about creating play spaces that celebrate the world’s oldest living culture in early childhood learning spaces, please visit


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