Connecting with nature in North Lakes

Published 5:00am 16 June 2024

Connecting with nature in North Lakes
Words by Jodie Powell

Moreton Bay families are eager to get on the waitlist for Sesame Lane’s North Lakes McLennan Court Early Learning Service – and for good reason.

Sesame Lane McLennan Court delivers unique educational experiences for children aged from six weeks to five years.

Beyond the front door is a hidden haven designed to nurture happy, healthy learners and their families.

Walking through reception into the community room, there’s a sense of belonging as children sit quietly with a book under the reading tree.

Children have the opportunity to get up close with nature in the established gardens surrounding extensive playgrounds, exploring edible plants, an onsite butterfly house and a native beehive fed by flowers growing throughout.

All the children who attend Sesame Lane McLennan Court take part in Owlbert's Plant to Plate Gardening Program.

Keeping pace with change

Connecting with nature in North Lakes

Children also enjoy a host of activities each week, including a Japanese Language Program, learning Auslan with Rhyme Rhythm and Sign, cooking experiences in the community room, and take part in the government-approved Kindergarten Program in the year before they start school.

Centre manager Heather Lemon says her team of educators is constantly reflecting on the programs, practices, and environments within the service.

This allows them to keep pace with the education evolution and incorporate feedback from North Lakes families and children.

Building on the connection with nature, Heather says an edible garden is home to plants that are used in the centre’s delicious menu and families are invited to take produce home.

“We have a pumpkin vine that grew from seeds when our toddlers were carving pumpkins last Halloween, and an established mandarin tree that produces 150-200 mandarins each year,” she says.

Collaboration the key

Connecting with nature in North Lakes

Heather says collaboration is at the heart of the centre’s philosophy and starts as soon as families walk through the front door.

“Our community room off the entrance is used as a meeting place for families, to host community gatherings and a dining room for all age groups throughout the day as well as an extension of our learning spaces,” she says.

“Our educators and children feel genuinely connected.

“The first educator is the parents, the second educator is us and the environment as the third educator plays a massive part in how children interact, learn and play.

“The design of our environment has been quite intentional as the third educator.”

Heather says the combination of structured and informal education allows children to learn at their own pace and the centre is home to quiet places as well as spaces for more robust play.

Time to explore

Connecting with nature in North Lakes

It also offers many opportunities for exploration.

“We have a butterfly house in the playground, which is unique to Sesame Lane McLennan Court,” Heather says.

“All our caterpillar chrysalises have just hatched, and we have swallowtail and monarch butterflies that the children love to watch.

“We also had mesh caterpillar and butterfly viewing huts that are portable and the children could check on them every day when they arrived in the community room.

“To extend on our children’s interest in butterflies, we take the kindergarten children on an excursion to the Butterfly House on Bribie Island each year - it’s a real highlight.

“The space has evolved over some time - we’ve been here nine years this year.

Vibrant new playgrounds

Connecting with nature in North Lakes

“All the playgrounds have recently been upgraded strategically.

“We have dedicated playgrounds for each age group with age-appropriate playground equipment, such as the rock-climbing hill in the toddlers' yard,” Heather explains.

“We’ve completed a lot of research into risky play, so we give the children the opportunity to test their skills in a safe environment.

“When considering our larger playground, we consulted the children and they told us they wanted a bike path with a slope so they could go fast, and a bumpy area on the track.

“Our kindergarten playground includes a rocky creek bed, which we can turn on and off for water play.

“A big talking point when families come in for a tour is our hand-painted murals throughout our playgrounds.

“We wanted to incorporate hidden animals in them, because sometimes with children, distraction is a good tool.

“Children are valued citizens and deserve beautiful aesthetic environments to flourish in.

“For us, the relationship with family is highly important and highly valued, right from the first time parents step through the door.”


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