Five eager boys are digging up dinosaurs in a sandpit located under a magnificent Macadamia tree, while another group of children wait anxiously for a turn on a wooden obstacle course.
It’s quarter to nine on a Monday morning and Chiselhurst Director, Rosemarie Dawes, will soon usher her group of children to “gather, gather” for inside play. But for now she is engaged in conversation with a bright-eyed girl who is recounting a story from her weekend away. It’s dedicated staff, like Rosemarie, who have made Chiselhurst a Toowoomba institution; a place where children are allowed to be children and learn through play.
“The Chiselhurst motto is that it’s ‘a magical, special place for the hearts and minds of young children’ and families come back and say that to us year after year after year,” said Rosemarie. “We have long, uninterrupted periods of play throughout the day and we follow the interests of the children, while thoughtfully adhering to the early years learning framework.”
Chiselhurst was founded by Miss Ann Clark in 1940 at a private home in East Toowoomba and reopened at its current location in 1964. The C&K affiliated kindergarten has a proud history of retaining its highly experienced staff, including Barbara Marshall, who retired this year following five decades of service.
“Three of our staff members, Karen Reid, Sarah Bryce and Susanne Creeks have been with us for eight years, Wendy Andersen for 12 and Ros Hughes for seven years,” said Rosemarie with pride. Former student and current President, Tony Knott, recently returned to Toowoomba from Alice Springs and has fond memories of attending the kindergarten back in 1979. “I remember the large outdoor play area and rest time, because I am not sure I ever went to sleep,” recounts Tony with a chuckle. “I just remember lying there waiting to get up. And, by the sound of things, I think my own son does the same thing now.”
Tony said Chiselhurst will commemorate 50 years at its Stonehaven Street location on Saturday 6 September, with an art exhibition and cocktail party. “As part of the event we will be launching a 75th Anniversary building fund. Monies raised will be used to fund an extension to the original building, including a new office, extension of the existing library area and a meeting / staff area.”
It’s now past nine am, and a dozen completed masterpieces are drying in the breeze on mobile clothes racks, erected alongside a row of sturdy wooden easels. “This is a painting of a rocket going to the moon,” a little boy informs me. “There are 18 astronauts on the rocket and it is going to take four days to get there. When they arrive on the moon they will be searching for aliens.”
If output and imagination is anything to go by, the art show should raise a small fortune.
The art show and cocktail party will be held on Saturday 6 September 2014. Please phone 07 4632 2044 to purchase tickets or refer to their website: www.chiselhurst.com.au
Words by Libby O’Connor | Images by Amy Dampney