Students Shape Early Learning Future

Innovation  Study 

A Gold Coast high school has invited its students to design a new facility in the school, giving them direct input into shaping the early learning experience for future students. Year 11 Design and Innovation students at Saint Stephen’s College were asked to create a design to redevelop the school’s Early Learning Centre play area. The students worked in teams utilising CAD (computer aided design) modelling and the latest thinking in early childhood playground concepts.

 The design students taking up the challenge were Alani Perkins (main photo), Brock Cameron, Camryn Voerman, Jessica Craft and Zoe Hood, with each visiting the ELC site before consulting with stakeholders, including Saint Stephen’s College Principal Kim Cohen and ELC Director Kellie Solomons to ensure their concepts met the project’s design criteria. Their plans also had to meet all safety requirements for an early learning centre.

Students investigate the current ELC layout to develop their new designs

Inspired by classic literature

Many of the designs were inspired by classic children’s literature from Enid Blyton (The Magic Faraway Tree) to Dr Seuss (Oh, The Places You’ll Go!) – complete with ‘Cat in the Hat’ umbrella tree as its centrepiece. The elaborate and beautifully crafted visualisations featured exceptionally creative thinking to stimulate developing minds through sensory play, with inclusions ranging from musical trees to aquatic features spouting water activated by children as they moved across stepping stones. Other ideas included role play platform stages and sustainable environmental initiatives, like playful watercourses that also irrigated the Early Learning Centre’s gardens.

Once their designs were completed each student had to pitch a visual proposal of their concept to a panel of judges, including Simon Brook from Burling Brown Architects, who was particularly impressed by the detailed hand drawings: “I have staff who can’t draw and can only use CAD. Hand drawing allows you to be so much more flexible in your creativity and it shows here through the wonderfully innovative ideas presented by the Saint Stephens’ students”.


The panel of judges were so excited by all of the presentations that they couldn’t settle on any one design, leaning towards a solution that incorporated the best elements from each presentation. The panel will finalise their decision within the next few weeks with the construction of the new Early Learning Centre playground due to commence in the new year. 

*Every year Gold Coast high school students pitch their ideas to solve real world problems as part of the Mayor’s Technology Awards. Due to COVID-19 this year’s awards have been cancelled, however the city’s students continue to develop their entrepreneurial and technological concepts to build a better future for all.


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