These are the connections that are the brain architecture, the basis upon which all learning, behaviour and health depend. The most important role that play can have is to help children to be active, make choices and practice actions to mastery.
Play that links sensory-motor, cognitive, and social-emotional experiences provides an ideal setting for brain development, and providing young children with a healthy environment in which to play, learn and grow is not only good for their development—it is good for the society in which they live. Economists have shown that high-quality early childhood programs bring impressive returns on investment to the public. According to the Harvard Centre on the Developing Child:
UNE is uniquely placed to bring the Discovery vision to life. The re-purposing of the iconic Boilerhouse as a children’s Discovery space enables the university to:
• Showcase research-led discovery experiences designed in consultation with both internal and external early childhood specialists;
• Work with local early childhood education providers to run extended programs to children in care;
• Offer undergraduate and postgraduate placements for education students at UNE;
• Provide spaces for community group workshops, play sessions and collaboration;
• Work closely with Aboriginal communities to share knowledge of indigenous food and gardening;
• Engage visitors in national citizen science projects;
• Showcase UNE and Armidale collections in natural history, antiquities and art;
• Offer teacher professional development programs; and
• Host artist / scientist / teacher-in-residence programs.
Early experiences and the environments in which children develop can have lasting impact on later success in school and life. The activities engaged in by children both stimulate and influence the patterns and pathways of neural centres in our brains. The Boilerhouse Discovery Space aligns strongly with Armidale’s reputation as a regional centre of excellence in education, and with UNE’s strategic goals to build resilient and sustainable regional communities.