At Little Scholars, we have four pillars that underpin everything that we do at Little Scholars – for our children, families, educators, and our community.

As part of our annual awards, we have four awards dedicated to those Little Scholars’ values – learn, grow, inspire and contribute. This year, while our award-winning educators certainly personify all four pillars, but with their unique special skills and achievements, we’ve declared one clear winner for each pillar.

Learn Pillar award winner

Tiahla Jones

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Tiahla at our Ashmore campus was named winner of the Pillar Award in the Learn category because she stepped up to become a lead educator, and she is happy to keep learning from her peers and further her education in the sector.

How long have you been an educator?
Four years

What made you pursue a career in early childhood education?

I feel like it was supposed to be as it all fell into place. I just came out of a casual job seeking for a new career journey and a job at Little Scholars Ashmore popped up. I applied for it and received the role the exact same day.

What’s the most rewarding and most challenging parts of your role? Watching their personalities blossom from a very young age, celebrating their personal developmental milestones with the children and building amazing relationships with families.

The most challenging part would be watching the children you have taught over the years move on to big school. We miss them so much!

What does winning this award mean to you?
Winning my award has meant the world to me, it makes me feel as though my progression and my achievements as an educator are noticed and valued.

Tahlia’s nomination

“Tiahla is always putting her hand up to learn new skills,” says Elise, campus manager for Little Scholars Ashmore.

“She is eager to grow from her peers, and will ask for help and support to build on her knowledge as an educator.”

Tiahla finished her Cert III and was keen to study her Diploma right away, Elise says.

“Tiahla has a bright future as an early childhood educator, as she values the importance of professional and personal growth through learning and collaborative partnerships.”

Inspire Pillar award winner

Keeva Reddish


Keeva is an educator at Little Scholars Redland Bay South and is the recipient of an Inspire Little Scholars Pillar Award 2024.

How long have you been an educator, Keeva?

I have been an educator since 2016, so eight years now and have been with Little Scholars Redland Bay South since January 2023.

What made you pursue a career in early childhood education?
When I first started in early childhood education, I was studying an accounting degree, I quickly came to realise that I wanted to focus on my early childhood career. I fell in love with the children, how incredible they are and how much they could teach me. It wasn’t just the children that I fell in love with but also the challenges and limitless knowledge I could acquire and learn from to be the best educator possible.

What’s the most rewarding and most challenging parts of your role?
The most challenging part of my role is that I want to spend as much time as possible with each individual child everyday teaching them and learning from them but there is not always enough time. The most rewarding part of my job is watching the children hit all their goals and the excitement they display when they see us or accomplish goal. Mentoring and supporting other educators and seeing how far they have come in their journey is another rewarding aspect always leaving me feeling proud of their accomplishments.

What does winning this award mean to you? I was so shocked to receive this award, as I just turn up to work each day to do my best to support and guide both the children and educators. It felt so good to know that what I do each day is being noticed. It definitely makes you feel like you are doing a great job. To be recognised for the support and guidance I provide was so special and my heart felt full of love for my team. To me it cemented the fact that I am becoming the educator I always wanted to be

Keeva’s nomination

In Keeva’s nomination from Redland Bay South campus, it said, “Keeva is an educator who truly embodies each of the little scholars core pillars. 

However, it is Keeva’s ability to inspire those around her, that is one of the most outstanding qualities. Keeva invests in mentoring those around her, inspiring their abilities to grow as educators utilising her existing knowledge and ability to learn more through professional development, to inspire each person to grow to full potential.”

Contribute Pillar Award

Claire Muir


Claire is the educational leader at Little Scholars Nerang campus and has been awarded the 2024 Contribute pillar award.

How long have you been an educator and how long with Little Scholars?

I have been an early childhood educator for 18 years and with Little Scholars for nearly six years.

What made you pursue a career in early childhood education?

I’m not quite sure when I decided this was the path I wanted to take as I feel like it’s been my career goal since I was little. I still remember the way one of my kindergarten teachers, Miss Anderson, made me feel. She was fun, caring, and knowledgeable. I wanted to be that for someone and help children to learn in their own time and style. I liked the idea of being able to help shape the minds of little ones and set them up to be kind, respectful humans.

What are the most rewarding and most challenging parts of your role?

As educational leader within my campus, the most rewarding part of my role is watching both the children and educators flourish and grow as humans. It fills me with so much pride to watch the children reach their milestones and celebrate their successes with them as much as it does when educators gain new skills that help them in their professional career.

My biggest challenge is saying goodbye to the children as they venture off on their next journey into formal schooling. It happens each year but never gets easier to see them go after watching them grow and develop over the years.

What does winning this award mean to you?

Winning this award makes me feel like I am on the right path to creating what I hoped to. It reinforced the fact that I am in the right career and doing the right things to help create a better future and bring our campus closer to our local communities. I feel so proud to be recognised as the 2024 contribute pillar winner.

Claire’s nomination

Renee, campus manager, said, “Claire has remarkable attributes and will contribute to anything and everything you can throw at her.

She is passionate about supporting others and always willing to participate in any type of event, including her own professional growth.

Claire is dedicated within our Little Scholars family and her years with us is another wonderful example of her contribution to our sector.”

Grow Pillar Award

Stefenie Cunningham


Stefenie, an educator at our Yatala campus, has remarkable attributes and we’re told her growth as an educator has been propelled by her enthusiasm to contribute, learn and inspire her team and go above and beyond not only for children, but families as well.

How long have you been an educator and with Little Scholars?

I have been an educator with Little Scholars for three years.

When you started, what was it about the role that made you want to stay in the sector?

When I was completing my work experience at the Yatala campus, I loved the relationships I was building with the children and I could see the impact educators had on the children.

What’s the most rewarding and most challenging parts of your role? The most rewarding part of my role is building such strong relationships with the children. The most challenging part is because I am so use to the younger age group, when I’m with the older children, I have to adjust my teaching style and interactions to their age groups.

What did being recognised for the Grow award mean to you?
It was really special because it really made me see how far I’ve come since being a 16 year old school based trainee. My confidence with the children and families, as well as my knowledge on child development has strengthened so much. I am a completely different educator and the fact that my leadership team can see and recognise it, it is a very special feeling.

Stef’s nomination

Stef at our Yatala campus was named winner of the Pillar Award in the Grow category because she’s grown from a trainee at the campus just a few years ago to now full time educator.

Sasha, campus manager at Little Scholars Yatala had this to say:

“Stef! What a superstar you are, and what a year you have had! From completing your Cert III as a school based trainee to jumping straight into full time work with us and then to go straight to studying your Diploma, nothing can stop you from achieving your goals, and we are so proud of how far you have come and the growth that you have achieved.”

Everyday life is full of risks and challenges, and at Little Scholars, we believe children need opportunities to develop the skills associated with managing risk and making informed judgements about risks from a very young age. Risky play helps to develop important life skill learnings such as; building resilience and persistence, critical-thinking skills, self-confidence and even extends their frustration tolerance.


We get it—no one wants to see little ones get hurt. It’s almost instinctual to hover nearby in case they stumble or to call out ‘be careful!’ when they’re taking risks. But could this actually be sending the message that we don’t trust their capabilities or instincts? Historical trends show that since the 1960s, there’s been a shift in how we view children. Once considered competent, responsible, and resilient, the modern perspective leans more towards constant supervision and protection. What used to be unrestricted and often unsupervised outdoor play has transitioned to structured, closely watched, and frequently indoor activities.

A lot of research has been devoted around the world to risky or adventurous play, and how parental attitudes as well as other factors played a part in children’s activities.

Risk and parents' attitudes

Recent research from Deakin University examined the connection between parent attitudes towards risk and injury and children’s adventurous play and physical activity. The study aims to explore the potential advantages of adventurous play in promoting moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) in children. It found while parents want their children to have opportunities to develop the above mentions skills associated with managing risky play, upwards of 78 per cent of the 645 Australian parents who participated in the study had a low tolerance of risk when presented with a series of play scenarios. More mothers than fathers who participated were more uneasy of the risky possibilities in the play scenarios, though it’s worth highlighting about 80 per cent of the online survey participants were female.
But, the researchers found children of parents with more positive attitudes to risk and injury had more adventurous play.
Adventurous play has the potential to promote moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) in children. Engaging in adventurous play, such as climbing high structures, riding bikes or scooters fast, or play-fighting, requires children to exert physical effort and energy. These types of activities often involve higher levels of intensity and movement, which can contribute to increased MVPA.

By participating in adventurous play, children are more likely to engage in activities that elevate their heart rate and breathing, leading to increased energy expenditure. This can help children meet the recommended guidelines for MVPA, which is at least 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity daily.

‘Educators facilitate gradual exposure to controlled risks, allowing children to develop confidence and judgment, ultimately empowering them to make informed decisions when navigating different situations.’

-Kristen Guymer

Adventurous play also offers opportunities for children to develop and enhance their motor skills, coordination, balance, and strength. These physical skills are essential for overall physical development and can contribute to improved physical fitness.

Furthermore, adventurous play provides children with opportunities to explore their environment, take risks, and challenge themselves. This type of play promotes creativity, problem-solving, and decision-making skills, as children navigate and overcome obstacles. It also fosters a sense of adventure, independence, and self-confidence.

Overall, adventurous play can be a fun and engaging way for children to meet their daily MVPA requirements while promoting physical fitness, skill development, and personal growth.

One Canadian study looked at the benefits presented by encouraging risky play in early learning settings. Researchers measured changes in play, social behaviour, psychological wellbeing, and physical activity in 45 children aged two to five years. Their findings showed significant decreases in depressive states, antisocial behaviour and moderate to vigorous (unsafe) physical activity, and increases in play with natural materials, independent play, and prosocial behaviours. Early Childhood Educators observed improved socialisation, problem-solving, focus, self-regulation, creativity and self-confidence, and reduced stress, boredom and injury.
Research shows that engaging in risky play can actually reduce the risk of injury, too. Something parents and educators can do is teach young children to risk-assess.

Risky play and adventure awaits at Little Scholars

At Little Scholars, we recognise the importance of letting children take risks and gaining confidence in their own bodies and abilities. Educators employ various methods to teach children how to assess risks, regardless of it being a familiar or unfamiliar setting, according to Kristen Guymer, a lead educator in the early learners studio at our Pacific Pines campus.

“We emphasise the importance of careful observation, encouraging children to identify potential hazards by looking, listening, and even touching when safe,” she says. “Educators also foster critical thinking by asking questions that prompt risk assessment, such as, ‘What could go wrong if…?’ We promote collaboration and communication, allowing children to discuss and share their perceptions of risk.”

Furthermore, Kristen shares, educators facilitate gradual exposure to controlled risks, allowing children to develop confidence and judgment, ultimately empowering them to make informed decisions when navigating different situations.

Before embarking on Bush Kinder experiences or similar activities, educators guide children through risk assessments:

  • Safety briefings – educators provide clear safety guidelines and explain the potential risks associated with an activity. This emphasises the importance of following instructions and identifying safe boundaries
  • Skill development – educators gradually introduce and build essential skills, such as climbing, or using tools, ensuring children progressively develop the physical and cognitive abilities required to manage risks
  • Reflection and discussion – in the older studios, after each activity, educators engage in discussions with children to reflect on their experiences, encouraging them to identify challenges they overcame, risks they managed, and lessons learned.

Hayley Yates, a lead educator at our Yatala campus agrees that discussions with children previously help prepare for and mitigate risk.

“We support risky play through our discussions with the children,” Hayley says. “If it’s something that has a big risk, example climbing trees, we talk about what we should look out for when climbing, how big the branches need to be to be safe and things of that nature. For both the younger and older children we use language like ‘Notice how this is this? Another example would be walking on slippery rocks, I would say ‘notice how that rock is wet? That might be slippery’, then giving them the option to continue to that rock or a different one.”

Hayley says through important discussions educators are guiding children by asking questions and role modelling safe behaviours.

We offer our little scholars the chance to get away from the get outside and enjoy the natural playground our environment offers us. It also allows them to assess and take risks that are so pertinent to their development, wellbeing and even their memories. Bush kinder is that reset, that step outside into fresh and get an education completely unique to any other they receive or will receive.

What is Bush Kinder?

Bush Kinder is a nature-based learning program designed to help children develop an appreciation for the outdoors and its many wonders. Bush kinder offers children an education that is a tremendous complement to the enriched educational program they receive at Little Scholars.
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At Little Scholars, we believe that spending time in nature has numerous benefits for children, including improved physical health and strength, enhanced cognitive development, and better emotional regulation. Through our Bush Kinder program, children have the opportunity to connect with nature on a deep level, learn about the environment, be challenged beyond the classroom, and engage in meaningful, hands-on experiences.

During our Bush Kinder sessions, children have the opportunity to engage in a range of activities, from nature walks and bird watching to building shelters and learning about indigenous culture. Children climb, scramble, jump and more in nature’s playground.

In this natural environment, children encounter diversity, novelty, challenges, and even some calculated risks. Their senses come alive as they engage with sticks, tree holes, water, rocks, sand, and dirt—nature’s abundant toys.

Our Bush Kinder educators are highly experienced and qualified in outdoor education and child development. They are passionate about providing children with meaningful learning experiences in a safe and supportive environment. We take the safety and security of our children very seriously. Our Bush Kinder program is conducted in a safe and secure outdoor environment, with strict protocols in place to ensure the well-being of all children.

But risky play is not limited to bush kinder.

Our outdoor areas are thoughtfully designed, including forts and equipment, all with intention of helping children navigate risk, endure challenges and build motor and fine motor skills.

Helena Vairy, an educator at our Ormeau Village campus, shares an example of how she helps children assess risk and how to complete ‘risky’ tasks safely.

“The way I like to teach children to access risk are by providing them with the materials which are needed and seeing how the children act on these,” Helena says. “

“The other week myself and a couple of the Kindergarten children set up the sandpit I placed the crates in a line and stacked one on top of the other. One child Mahli said ‘this looks like a runway maybe we can walk and then jump off the crates.’ What a great idea this was, the children were nervous at first but I stood right next to them to help. I asked the children, ‘do you think you can jump off the crated and land with your feet flat?’ I then demonstrated and the children too were off jumping.

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At the start of this experience, I asked the children, ‘would you like me to hold your hand while you jump?’ or ‘let’s count to three and then jump,’ this encouraged the children to not feel nervous and that someone was there to support them if they needed them. Five minutes after setting this experience up, there was a line up to jump off the crates the children all started saying ‘1 2 3 jump all together!’ We had a helper who racked the jump area to make the faller soft if their peers needed it.’

We love this story because it shares how children lead their own learning experience, consider risks, and support and encourage each other.

All of our campuses have recently introduced woodworking stations, designed to help children exercise their creative and critical thinking skills. It allows them to express their ideas and figure out solutions to their projects. It’s also a great way to introduce risky play, as the risks are managed and educators are actively supervising, but woodworking teaches children about safety and understanding risk.

“As they pick up their hammers, they’re getting ready to work on their pincer grip,” says Katie, educational leader at our Parkwood campus. “Things like that prepare them for school. In order to prepare to help the children use these safely, we’ve been having group discussions and asking them different questions about how to use the tools, what they think the tools do and what they can make in the future.”

It’s clear that risky play isn’t just about letting children run wild; it’s a calculated approach to help them develop essential life skills. At Little Scholars, we’re not just about keeping your little ones safe; we’re about preparing them for life. Our educators are trained to guide children in assessing risks, making it a learning experience that builds confidence and safe judgment. So, parents, it might be time to loosen the reins a bit. Let’s trust our children to make informed decisions, even if it means resisting the urge to shout, ‘Be careful!’ every so often. After all, life is full of risks and challenges, and what better time to learn how to navigate them than in the formative early years? You’ll be amazed at what they can achieve when given the freedom to explore, assess, and conquer.

We know you want to give your child the best possible start in life. We foster nurturing relationships between our educators and your child, building and gaining their trust so we can support your child as they take on risks and challenges safely and confidently. Book a tour today to get started!

Further reading:

If you have a child at Little Scholars, you’ve likely heard of ‘The Collective’ but do you know what it is? We thought it might be time for an explainer!

Little Scholars School of Early Learning’s The Collective is a service-wide, multi-faceted educational initiative, designed to enhance each child’s learning and development and best support educators’ time spent with children.

The development of The Collective is based upon early childhood pedagogy. Children are provided the time and space to explore, imagine, create, problem solve and develop social groups and guided to find their individual learning journey. The Collective allows for educators to have freedom in how they document and plan for children. This supports a strength-based approach with our team and highlights individual skillset of our educators and value the multiple voices being heard, embedding a collective response to children’s learning.

Humble beginnings and a pizza box

Understanding the demands of documenting processes, Little Scholars wanted to create a streamlined approach to the educational program across all our campuses. The intention was to demonstrate quality over quantity, foster children’s growth, and develop them to become successful citizens and critical thinkers. This curriculum approach also supports educators to adopt theory and put it into practice. Educators, through observations of children’s play, conversations and their interactions within their environment, explore what the child might be thinking. This is then the beginnings of the planning process within our collective curriculum.

Alice Micklewright, campus manager of Little Scholars Burleigh, with her team, came up with the idea of The Collective and led its early development.

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Alice Micklewright, campus manager of Little Scholars Burleigh

Humble beginnings and a pizza box

“I wanted to look at curriculum for a while because there were a lot of things that we felt were just kind of there but didn’t feel like they had a place, so streamlining that focus was good.”

“We had a lead educator meeting one night and we talked about how the educators were feeling in general, and some of the comments were just like ‘I feel like I spend more time writing things down than I do with children.’ They are still with the children most of their time, but when you’re feeling like you’re trying to focus on something else and not giving the whole attention to something and being present, it can be really unsettling.”

That was at the peak of the pandemic crisis, according to Alice, and her team became cognisant that what they were doing in the moment was far more important than anything else.

“The first conversation we had, we looked at what we were doing and wrote down notes on the back of the pizza box – ideas about why we’re doing what we were doing, what the processes were and what we felt didn’t really fall within the planning cycle appropriately for it be conducive to having good outcomes for everybody involved.”


“We really started The Collective off the back of our Engagement Initiative – that’s the one day a month we have with no documentation of photos, no technology. It was purely based on educators getting back in touch with engaging with children and not focusing so much on some of the perceived pressures that have come about in the sector in terms of things like families’ expectations on photos being received, and the amount of documentation that sometimes can spiral. It is a regulation for services to demonstrate planning toward an educational program for children. We wanted a streamlined approach to guide our campuses to set the benchmark to support and engage.

“It’s really been child-driven on the focus of what we want to do,” she says.

Melanie Excell, Operations Manager for Little Scholars, agrees.

“When we started this process, we gathered information from a variety of different perspectives – including families and children, and professional training and resources,” Mel says.

There was a vast amount of training for educators to understand new processes.

“At its core, it’s really been just trying to pare back what we were doing to deliver quality curriculum for children, that supports their outcomes and their developmental needs, to generate a stronger culture of critical thinkers in terms of children and educators,” Alice adds.

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Weekly, rather than daily, detailed written updates are now sent to families, allowing educators to focus more on being with children. Families still get photos daily to see what their child has been learning and enjoying that day, but learning outcomes, routines, links to Early Years Learning Framework and research are saved for the end of the week, and individual child updates are sent out termly.

“Sometimes you find that services will continue to add a lot of documentation [about each child] and to try to meet the needs of the framework and the standards, when it can be a lot simpler and child focused,” Alice says.

Reflection in action

The critical reflection component of the curriculum is most important, according to Alice.

“Everything we do really needs to have a purpose, a thought behind it and a reason why we want to engage in it that way, and then involving the children in that process and the families as well.

“If you look at the planning cycle in the National Quality Framework (NQF), you gather information from an idea or interest that children have, engage the children in what they’d like to do moving forward and analyse the information you’ve gathered, plan for it, then reflect and review is the whole cycle.”

For example, educators might look at children who are engaging in an activity and would consider it across developmental milestones and outcomes what they think the children are trying to achieve. In a nursery, where early learners can’t yet speak, educators might observe a child picking up resources and putting them into a basket and taking them back out, a learning behaviour known as a schema.

“Children are exploring all of these different concepts every day, even though you may not realise because they’re playing and it’s natural for them to do that,” says Alice.

The use of open-ended questioning with children supports the understanding of their play and helps gain a child’s perspective as opposed to an adult’s agenda.

The planning comes from what educators talk about in the moment, and educators act on what they’ve gathered, followed by a review at the end, where they decide if they activity worked well or didn’t, and if it didn’t, questioning why – were the children just not interested in that topic anymore, and is there a reason why?

Communicating with families

Little Scholars produces individual learning journeys for each child that highlight significant milestones and achievements to their development whilst in our care. Various modes of documentation record the learning identified through the child’s participation in our program.

Little Scholars sends out the personalised mid-year assessments to the families and then the end of the year they’ll receive a transition letter which wraps up their child’s journey, acknowledging achievements and progress in their studio.

“One of the other points we highlighted when we started reviewing the curriculum, is that we wanted to educate our families that what we were doing. We know that there’s a lot of electronic information available as well, but the value of that face-to-face conversation and relationship with staff and families, is important too,” Alice says.

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The Collective allows for educators to have autonomy in how they document and plan for children. This supports a strength-based approach with our team,” according to Susan Cooper, group pedagogical leader for Little Scholars. “It highlights individual skillset of our educators and value the multiple voices being heard, embedding a collective response to children’s learning.”

Alice says it’s still a process that Little Scholars is undergoing.

“Ultimately, it’s important that we have educators here who feel stable and like they want to contribute and that they are getting recognised for the things that they’re doing, and we believe The Collective does that.”

Jae Fraser, founder of Little Scholars agrees. Little Scholars wants to ensure educators feel seen, heard and valued, because our educators’ passion for our children and their education is why we’re delivering exceptional educational play-based programs.

“We really care about and listen to our teams, so when they are feeling pressured due to significant amount of paperwork, we act,” says Jae. “It’s all about the educators and the children, so if we can achieve amazing outcomes without all the unnecessary paperwork, and children and educators are interacting and engaging in really meaningful ways  – this is what we need to focus on.”

More about Little Scholars:

Book a tour today!

Since nearly the beginning of Little Scholars, Little Scholars School of Early Learning has been proud to have special friendships in the community with people who live in aged care setting.

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The premise of Little Scholars Intergenerational Program, dating back to 2015, is simple. It’s all about supporting connection between the young and the young at heart and bringing parts of our community together.

“It all began when our leadership team attended an intergenerational forum where we learnt that 16% of people in Australia are over 65 years of age and 45% of these people have reported feelings of loneliness. That’s a huge number and made us want to act,” says Jae Fraser, founder of Little Scholars.

“We also had some feedback from families who had moved here from interstate or internationally, and their children had no physical contact with their grandparents – so this was a wonderful opportunity for us to allow these children to have ‘Grandfriends’.”

Isolation in older people

Isolation and feelings of loneliness are a serious threat for older people, because they’re more likely to live alone, lose family members and friends, suffer from chronic illness and hearing loss. Statistically, one in four older (over 65) Australians live alone.* Of those who live alone, according to a 2015 Australian Bureau of Statistics survey, about 12% didn’t receive visitors in a three-month period, and older men were reported to be less likely to have been visited, at 17%.

In a 2020 Royal Commission report, of the Australians who reported knowing someone in aged care facilities, one third never contacted the people they know, and one in five never visited.

Social isolation has also been linked to mental illness, emotional distress, suicide, the development of dementia, premature death, physical inactivity, poor sleep, and biological effects, including high blood pressure and poorer immune function.

Little Scholars aims to fix this.

Young and young at heart

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With our intergenerational program, the children visit with their grandfriends fortnightly. They do crafts, play games, sing songs, share morning teas and have meaningful chats. For their young-at-heart mates, the visits help alleviate challenges of isolation, and brings joy, feelings of self-worth, developing new friendships, silliness, and fun. For the children, the visits have a multitude of benefits, including:

  • Become more accepting of differences – especially when it comes to disability
  • Learn about the natural aging process and reduce potential fear of elderly people
  • It allows various generations to share stories and pass on their traditions, giving new perspectives
  • Improved memory
  • Enhanced self-esteem, feeling that they’re helping their grandfriends and making a difference
  • Connection to community

So many of the residents just want or need one thing that they can look forward to, to keep them going.

Natalie Carey, Deception Bay campus manager

Our Redland Bay campus started its friendship with a nearby aged care home because a parent worked there. The parent mentioned how much the residents loved when her own children visited, so staff decided to reach out and begin planning an intergenerational program.

“We started with just the kindergarten class, and every time we went down there, we took a different age group with us,” says Jordie, now campus manager of Little Scholars Ormeau 2. “We went there to share high teas, we created hampers for the residents for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Christmas that were donated by our families.”

Our Deception Bay Little Scholars began its program in 2016, when campus manager Nat arranged for the kindergarten children to visit the aged care home Nat’s grandmother lived in.

“We connected with them to be able to give the elderly someone consistent who would come and visit them, as some of them received no visitors,” Nat says. “I learnt this when I spoke to one of my grandma’s carers and she said so many of the residents just want or need one thing that they can look forward to, to keep them going.”

Nat says they started taking the kindergarten children regularly, then extended it down to the younger studios to embed it across their service.

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“We would always take five or six kindergarten children to allow the connections to continue between the children and their grandfriends. The dementia patients, in particular would love our babies, and together we got to create and witness some special moments.”

The Little Scholars Ashmore campus started its intergenerational program last year, after working with Griffith University’s Dr Jennifer Cartmel and PhD student, Jelisa Tan.

Jelisa did her placement at the campus and prepared resources for team members and families. She shared slideshows, floor books and fact sheets with an emphasis on the benefits of the intergenerational program and its progress.

While many of our services have had informal relationships with local aged care residences for many years, we believe the intergenerational program is more important than ever and will be incorporated in all 13 Little Scholars campuses by the end of 2023.

“Celebrating the role older community members play in the development of children is something to be fostered and celebrated. The program is one of the most popular aspects of our services, we’ve found our community loves finding occasions to see the different generations come together and share in a common experience,” Jae says.

Help your child grow physically, emotionally, socially. Our intergenerational program will be at all our campuses by end of 2023. Learn more about Little Scholars.

Related stories

If you follow our social media posts, you know we’re passionate about getting our Little Scholars outside. Have you ever wondered why outdoor play is such a vital part of our early educational program?

Here are a few compelling reasons:

Embracing the sensory experience

Imagine the fresh air brushing against your face, the satisfying crunch of leaves under your feet, or the soothing sound of a nearby burbling stream. Picture the invigorating scent of freshly cut grass or the refreshing breeze of the salty sea air. Envision the tactile sensation of rough bark or smooth stones. And finally, visualise the breathtaking beauty of greenery, rivers, streams, and oceans.

In essence, being outdoors offers the ultimate sensory experience that simply cannot be replicated in a studio.

Reviving the spirit of unrestricted play

Many of us cherish childhood memories filled with boundless hours spent exploring the great outdoors. However, as life has grown busier for families, children today are spending less time engaging in unrestricted play outside. A recent study by Royal Children’s Hospital national child health poll found that 45% of Australian children play outdoors most days, and 80% of parents would like their children to spend more time outdoors. At Little Scholars, we want children to rediscover the joy of unstructured play in nature.

One study found that children who engage in just one third more outdoor activities than their peers grow up to be happier adults

Outdoor learning should be an integral part of children’s everyday lives, providing fun and enjoyment while also serving as a stimulus and extension of their indoor learning. If your child attends Little Scholars, outdoor play is a key component of their daily experience on our campus.

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A focus on the natural environment

At Little Scholars, our educational programming places a strong emphasis on the natural environment. We have developed the Little Scholars’ Bush Kinder program, an innovative outdoor education experience for children of all ages, fostering exploration, discovery, and learning in nature.

During our Bush Kinder adventures, children engage in a range of activities, including nature walks, wildlife watching, building shelters, and learning about indigenous culture. They climb, scramble, jump, and fully immerse themselves in nature’s playground.

The role of specially-trained outdoor teachers

Our outdoor teachers are highly experienced and qualified in outdoor education and child development. They understand the significance of outdoor and nature play in fostering children’s development and well-being. By cultivating a love for nature and the environment, as well as a connection to all living things, they help fulfill children’s basic needs for freedom, adventure, experimentation, risk-taking, and simply being children.

Safety and support

At Little Scholars, the safety and security of our children are of utmost importance. Our Bush Kinder program is conducted in a safe and secure outdoor environment, with strict protocols in place to ensure the well-being of all participants. Our educators are passionate about providing children with meaningful learning experiences in a safe and supportive setting. Extensive risk assessments are conducted prior to excursions, but children are also advised and included in risk assessing while on their adventures so they can begin to think about safe risk taking while enjoying being outside. Our Bush Kinder program is designed to be fun, engaging, and educational, and there are plenty of benefits for children while they’re out on their adventures.

Children have the opportunity to explore and discover the wonders of the natural environment, learning about plants, animals, and ecosystems firsthand.

Through hands-on experiences, children develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills. They learn to navigate challenges and find creative solutions.

Outdoor play provides ample opportunities for children to interact with their peers, fostering the development of social skills and the formation of new friendships.

Engaging in outdoor activities helps children develop their physical skills, such as coordination, balance, and strength.

During bush kinder, we engage in Dadirri, an Aboriginal word meaning ‘inner deep listening and quiet still awareness and waiting’. So while out enjoying nature, the children and educators sit with a bit of space from each other and pay close attention to what they can hear, see, smell and feel. Bush kinder also provides an opportunity to learn, acknowledge, and celebrate the history and traditions of the people who were the traditional owners of the land they love to spend time exploring.

Finally, spending time in nature cultivates a sense of wonder and deepens children’s appreciation for the natural world around them.

Theorists and history of outdoor learning programs

While we take pride in our learning programs that prioritise outdoor play, it’s important to acknowledge the foundations upon which these programs were built. Our teams have conducted extensive research and drawn from the following theories:

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Friedrich Froebel (1782-1852): Froebel’s approach emphasises holistic development and creativity in early childhood education. He recognised the importance of outdoor learning, nature walks, and gardening.

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Jean Piaget (1896-1980): Piaget’s theory of cognitive development highlights the role of play in intelligence development. He believed that children’s play and environment should encourage cognitive and language growth.

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Lev Vygotsky (1896-1934): Vygotsky emphasised the importance of children’s interaction with the environment and their peers. He believed that learning is enhanced through social interaction and scaffolding from a more knowledgeable other person.

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Margaret McMillan (1860-1931): McMillan, along with her sister Rachel, played a pivotal role in nursery education. They advocated for open-air nurseries and opened Britain’s first open-air nursery, and unlimited outdoor play, recognising the benefits of hands-on experience and active learning.

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Susan Sutherland Isaacs (1885-1948): Isaacs, an educational psychologist, believed in the central role of play in a child’s education. She emphasised the importance of outdoor exploration and community engagement to support children’s emotional and cognitive needs.

Our Campus Outdoor Environment

While our Bush Kinder program is a significant aspect of Little Scholars, outdoor play doesn’t always require leaving the campus. Our yards are purposefully designed as extensions of our studios, providing space for learning, relaxation, and play. From play forts to bike tracks, gardens to sensory paths, and water play areas, our outdoor environments offer open and less structured spaces for children to explore, overcome challenges, and grow.

By encouraging children to spend time outdoors, whether through Bush Kinder or within our incredible yards, we aim to provide them with a well-rounded early education. Outdoor play nurtures essential skills such as resilience, teamwork, creativity, mindfulness, and risk assessment in a safe and supervised environment.

Now that you understand why outdoor play is such an integral part of the Little Scholars experience, it’s time to discover how nature play can bring out the best in your child. Find out more by booking a tour and witnessing our commitment to fostering children’s growth and development firsthand.

At Little Scholars, we have four pillars that underpin everything that we do at Little Scholars – for our children, families, educators, and our community.

As part of our annual awards, we have four awards dedicated to those Little Scholars’ values – learn, grow, inspire and contribute. This year, while our award-winning educators certainly personify all four pillars, but with their unique special skills and achievements, we’ve declared one clear winner for each pillar.

Learn Pillar award winner

Ellissa Gunn

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Ellissa at our Ormeau Village campus was named winner of the Pillar Award in the Learn category because she stepped up to become a lead educator, and she is happy to keep learning from her peers and further her education in the sector.

  • How long have you been an educator?
    I’ve been an educator since I was 16, but even younger I was at my mum’s centre helping out wherever I could.
  • How long have you been with Little Scholars?
    I’ve been with Little Scholars for about 18 months, since Ormeau Village opened.
  • What made you want to become an educator?
    I think just having the inspiration of my mum being in that environment, seeing what she does, seeing how she helped shape the children, it made me want to do it as well. Just seeing how I could help children as well.
  • What is your favourite part about working with children?
    Just seeing them smile every day. I’m in the junior kindy room, so they’re not talking yet, but by the end of the year I can be having whole conversations with them, every word they say I just get the biggest smile on my face, because it’s something new they’ve learned.
  • What did winning the award mean to you?
    I’m always trying my absolute best to do the best possible work I can do, so it meant that someone else was seeing that, that it was appreciated. It’s made it feel worth it!
  • What do you like about working with Little Scholars?
    Just the support and having the creative freedom to do things that I couldn’t do at other places. Like taking them on Bush Kinder adventures and all these other fun things they get to do that they may not have the opportunity to do anywhere else. And everyone at head office as well, like Susan, Mel and Jae-them being so active in our centre, that’s something I really appreciate as well.
  • On the quick move from an assistant educator to lead educator, Ellissa says:
    The support I had helped me to grow so fast, because if I was somewhere else and didn’t have the support, I probably wouldn’t have become lead, but the support from everyone about what I could do, what I would have to do, really helped when I stepped up.

Ellissa is finishing up her studies with her Cert III, then she’ll be moving onto her Graduate Diploma.

From her submission: Ellissa has stepped up into her Lead role during last year and we have watched her grow from assistant to well-deserved Lead and take charge in her space, leading her colleagues while taking feedback on board and striving to excel.

Inspire Pillar award winner

Ella Stanton


Ella’s experience as a parent with a child at Little Scholars was actually the reason she became an educator herself! Ella is the recipient of an Inspire Little Scholars Pillar Award 2023.

  • How long have you been an educator, Ella?
    I have been an educator for four years now, and with Little Scholars since my placement when I began my certificate 3 at TAFE.
  • How did you start your career?
    I had been looking at Little Scholars as a centre for my daughter since I was pregnant and fell in love with it from the get-go. Since beginning to have my daughter at the centre, I saw the love and care that the educators gave the children. Working with children had always been on my agenda as I used to study to be a music teacher and knew I could do so much more as an early childhood educator to assist the children in excelling in all areas before beginning “big school.”
  • What did being recognised for the inspire award mean to you?
    The award completely blindsighted me as I turn up to work each day just to do my best for these little humans so to be recognised for my relationship with the children in my centre was so special to me and really instilled my role within the company and the importance I hold alongside my other educators in this industry.

Ella’s nomination

Ella is an educator with the Little Scholars Deception Bay campus, which recently was assessed Exceeding under the National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education and Care.

In Ella’s nomination to us, it said, “Ella is an inspiration for all in the Deception Bay community.  We had some outstanding feedback from the department through our assessment and rating process. Before the process even started, the assessor had mentioned the passion and authenticity observed in Ella’s interactions with our children, families and community. In the assessor’s words – ‘she could sit and watch Ella all day long.’  From one of Ella’s colleagues, ‘the educator she is, is who I aspire to be in my future teaching career. She is strong, but also so caring to each individual child.’

Contribute Pillar Award

Jackie Lowe

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Jackie is an educator at Little Scholars Ashmore campus. In her first year working for us, she was nominated for a Pillar award!

  • How long have you been in educator?
    I’ve been an educator on and off for about 20 years. I’ve been with Little Scholars for a year now.
  • Hey that’s pretty good to get recognised in your first year!
    I know it was so good!
  • What’s made you want to become an educator?
    Just from being young and starting off babysitting, which I loved, and then Year 12 back then we had work experience and that was just going to a centre and from that first day I knew what I wanted to do.  I just fell in love with it, and from then it was my goal to finish school and become an early childhood teacher
  • What is it now, 20 years on, that you still love about working in this sector?
    It’s just the love of being around children, i’m just being with a team of educators, and I missed that like when I went away from it and did my business, I just missed it so much. It’s just working children just gives me so much joy.
    All my children are older, are grown up, and it was just not a grandmother yet or anything it was just that feeling, it just going back into a centre and it just makes me so happy.
  • You won the Pillar Award for ‘contribute’ and you’re known as a ‘jack of all trades’, what do you do?
    No job is too big or too small! I do the bus, I’m the after-school care educator, I can work in the kitchen, I can listen to other team members, there’s nothing that I won’t try! That’s just who I am, when I’m needed, I’ll do anything to help the team out.
  • Especially your first year at Little Scholars, what did winning an award mean to you?
    My goodness, it was just so good, firstly I was surprised, but it was then good to know that the little things that i’m doing are noticed, I felt like, ‘Wow I am noticed!’ It just made me feel so happy knowing that all the jobs that I am doing people have recognised it, so yeah so then makes you feel like you are doing a great job!
    I love working for Little Scholars. It’s an amazing company, I’ve worked with the other centres before, Little Scholars is just amazing and I’m happy to be there and helping out.

Jackie’s nomination

Campus manager Elise said, ‘Jackie is our jack of all trades!  Jackie fits many hats at our campus. From driving the bus to being in the studios to going on vacation care, she wears her many hats with a smile on her face.  Her bubbly nature and willingness to help the team wherever needed is admirable.  We appreciate her dedication and consistent contribution to the campus.

Grow Pillar Award

Aleisha Relph

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Aleisha has remarkable attributes and we’re told her growth as an educator has been propelled by her enthusiasm to contribute, learn and inspire her team and go above and beyond not only for children, but families as well.

  • How long have you been an educator and with Little Scholars?

I have been an educator since the end of January 2020. Prior to this, I was a trainee at Little Scholars Nerang since September of 2018 studying my Diploma.

  • What made you want to enter the Early Childhood Education and Care sector?
    I became an educator as I love children, especially babies. I love to watch them grow and I love that I have an impact on that. I enjoy building relationships with them and watching how each individual child learns.
  • What did being recognised for the Grow award mean to you?
    I’m always trying to grow as an educator to better my experience and better myself, so to be recognised for this made me feel really appreciated and makes me want to continue with this career.

Aleisha’s nomination

Aleisha at our Nerang campus was named winner of the Pillar Award in the Grow category because she’s grown from a trainee at the campus just a few years ago to now full time lead educator, her gentle touch, her willingness to inspire and help others, she was a clear choice for campus manager Renee.

Aleisha is no stranger to accolades, she won Educator of the Year – Peer Choice twice previously. Little Scholars was her first employer in her early childhood education career!

Come and see the Little Scholars difference

Let us hold your hand and help looking for a child care centre. Leave your details with us and we’ll be in contact to arrange a time for a ‘Campus Tour’ and we will answer any questions you might have!