The Sunshine Coast Early Learning Centre building foundations for life

The role of the childcare service has shifted dramatically in the last 15 years.

Instead of simply being a safe play space to keep the kids entertained whilst a parent worked or ran some errands, the early learning centre (ELC) is now being recognised as a critical launchpad in a child’s academic journey.

With the Early Years Learning Framework in place and National Quality Standards to be met, childcare services are rapidly reinventing themselves as havens of creativity, curiosity, and meaningful play.

But, do these classrooms also fill little ones’ societal cups, ensuring a sense of belonging and security as they experience longer times in care?

children playing at Caloundra kindy

The team at Caloundra Christian College has placed Christian values, family and belonging at the core of their early learning pedagogy, believing that, with a strong sense of belonging and safety in place, a child will then be fully open to learning and growth.

“Caring and nurturing educators are at the heart of our early learning centre,” says Danielle Wright, Director/Nominated Supervisor at Caloundra Christian College ELC.

“We ensure we instil a sense of family throughout the centre, which continues throughout the rest of the College. This establishes a lifelong connected learning journey and feeling of safety—from Pre-Kindy through to Year 12.”

And it’s a philosophy that experts are increasingly applauding, with research finding that the best learning happens when children feel a sense of belonging and connectedness.

“Children need to know they are cared for; that they are safe and that they belong,” says Danielle. “With a sense of connectedness, they will be happier, more relaxed and be more motivated and successful learners.”

When children feel included and safe, they are also more likely to be accepting of others and sensitive to their needs. This sense of inclusivity and sharing is reflected in the ELC’s approach to nutrition, where they create fresh and healthy meals on-site each day for the children to share together, following a menu that caters for individual health and cultural dietary requirements.

“Children truly thrive and grow when they see the adults around them putting values like compassion, integrity, courage and understanding into practice.”

Caloundra early learning centre

Connecting the early learning centre with the whole family

This sense of belonging isn’t only relevant to the child. Children benefit emotionally and academically when parents and carers feel a sense of belonging to the early learning centre too.

“It’s important that the whole family feels nurtured and cared for at our centre,” Danielle explains.

And, as an ELC to Year 12 College, it’s something that Caloundra Christian College really excels at.

“Parents can have multiple children of different ages from 3 to 18 years old enrolled in one location, with just one drop off in the morning.”

The College is also discovering how this sense of belonging spans generations, with generational enrolment now increasingly common.

“We now have grown-up students returning to Caloundra Christian College with their own families,” says Danielle. “Our qualified staff all follow Christian beliefs and values, which also contributes greatly to this sense of family.”

children reading book at Caloundra early learning centre

Building foundations for life in Sunshine Coast little learners

With a sense of belonging firmly in place, children are open to the many learning opportunities available, and the foundations for life can begin to be built.

“Your child will start to explore the world around them through an educational play-based curriculum,” explains Danielle. “Play-based learning environments offer diverse opportunities to explore, discover and create. It fosters qualities such as curiosity, perseverance, which nurtures a love for learning.”

Through purposeful interactions, children are supported to become competent, capable and respectful learners­—secure and confident in their place at the College.

Small class sizes are another crucial part to the ELC’s framework, meaning educators get more one-on-one time with children to build relationships and connection.

“Our small classes help young children develop close friendships with staff and peers. Sensitive children are not overwhelmed and staff can get to know the individual needs of every child.”

And by connecting little ones to the College through a program of incursions to the greater campus, such as the resource centre and the secondary science labs, students also develop a sense of belonging to the main College, along with building much-needed confidence for when the transition to Prep comes.

“Learning occurs as part of the social and cultural interactions between children and teachers, parents, families, community members and others.”

“We believe that each child is unique and created in God’s image, and our purpose is to support and guide them to develop strong foundations for life and learning.”

Caloundra Christian College ELC offers a two-day per week program in Pre-Kindy (3- to 4-year-olds) and a five day per fortnight program in Kindergarten (4- to 5-year-olds). Additional days are easily available as long day care and vacation care.