Fostering curiosity through STEM and storytelling
Children are encouraged to explore, express creativity and be the co-authors of their learning journey at The Joey Club, nestled in the Qantas campus on Eora Country.
17 August 2023
Learning is a collaborative experience at The Joey Club, a work-based service with a name befitting its location. Operated by KU Children’s Services, the service sits within the Qantas campus in Mascot, among the offices where parents and carers of the early learners who attend the long day care work. Besides their common location, parents, teachers and educators also share a strong vision for a rich early learning experience.
The Joey Club is considered by many to be the nucleus of the wider Qantas community, which in turn inspires, supports and encourages the service’s educational program and practice. “We welcome and draw upon the voices and knowledge of our families and extended Qantas community, and work creatively to co-develop meaningful learning opportunities,” shared Amal Nasr, Director of The Joey Club.
Nurturing curiosity and collaboration
Early literacy and STEM learning are a strong focus at The Joey Club and are interwoven throughout the service’s curriculum. The subject areas create endless opportunities for children to engage in co-constructed learning.
“Throughout many of our STEM inquiry-based projects, children have extended their learning environment to include the Qantas campus by connecting with and involving families and the extended community in their inquiry,” Amal explained.
Early learners at the service completed a problem-based project on recycling in their wing of the Qantas campus. As part of the project, they conducted surveys with employees to gather data about recycling, interviewed subject matter experts in the Qantas community, and advocated for change by sharing their findings in a public forum. The children’s research led to the installation of coffee cup recycling stations in a mixed-use area used by Qantas employees and guests for working, meetings and leisure.
The children’s inquisitive minds also means that activities and projects sometimes grow or change direction, depending on where the learning experiences lead them. One such example is a year-long, arts-based project inspired by Lois Ehlert’s book, Leaf Man, which focuses on ephemeral art made from natural resources and how they can be used in storytelling. The early learners also watched a stop-motion video based on the book, which prompted the children to ask questions about stop-motion moviemaking, sparking a new line of inquiry.
“This initiated a full-scale investigative and creative project into stop motion,” explained Amal, “and over the next 6 months the children created their own stop motion videos.”
“While technological tools were primarily used throughout the project (iPad, YouTube, stop-motion apps), other STEM and literacy tools were embedded throughout the children’s exploration of storyboarding, film production and set design.”
The digital age
At The Joey Club, children have access to an array of digital technology, which supports them to expand their capacities to build connections, research and problem solve. For example, the service uses an online music platform to co-create community playlists with families for each age group. “This use of technology started in our nursery as a way to support children to connect to their home culture and emerging identity through music and dance,” Amal shared.
Children in older age groups also have a host of gizmos and gadgets at their fingertips to support their inquiry-based projects. The tech-savvy learners frequently engage with digital microscopes, projectors and cameras, iMovie, programming technology (such as BeeBots and Cubetto) and augmented reality books. They’re also well-versed in using online search engines and video platforms for research and inspiration. Exploring Rube Goldberg machines is a crowd favourite with the budding creators, explorers and scientists at the service.
Planning and practice
Intentionality is embedded in the long day care’s service practice, which shines through in the education team’s thoughtful and collaborative approach to assessment and planning for each child. “Artful teaching and documentation seek to draw attention to how children are engaging with these disciplines, which allows us to theorise ways to support their learning through responsive planning and practice,” Amal reflected.
Educators at The Joey Club use the concept ‘the power of question’ to support children’s exploration of STEM and literacy themes. They’re also guided by Alise Shafer Ivey's challenge to ‘avoid asking questions you already know the answer to’.
“We take this challenge as a guiding tool to scaffold learning opportunities that promote further curiosity, incite a sense of wonder, and nurture a love of learning,” Amal explained. “We do this by investing in the time, space and resources children need to plunge themselves into their questions and be engrossed in the limitless potential of their wonderings.”
Showcasing children’s learning
“We see ourselves as privileged ‘guests’ in children’s learning moments and are eager to document the explorations as co-learners and co-researchers,” Amal shared when explaining why making children’s learning visible is a key focus at The Joey Club.
The long day care uses Storypark, an online documentation tool, to connect with and co-author children’s learning with families, as well as learning stories, photo displays and floor books. The Joey Club team also looks for opportunities to showcase children’s learning in creative ways, such as art exhibitions and the stop-motion videos made by the budding filmmakers.
“As we co-author documentation alongside children and families, we celebrate their capacities as agentic learners who make a real difference in our community” reflected Amal. “We see children as not just the protagonists of their learning stories, but also the authors and owners.”
“This process encourages us to collaboratively unpack learning moments through multiple perspectives, which enables the co-creation and co-design of future learning opportunities.”