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Nature Play

Newman College Nature Play Initiative

The Newman Nature Play Initiative aims to provide students at Newman College with natural, adventurous, engaging play spaces that enhance every aspect of their development and early learning.

It aims to encourage our children’s love of nature and learning to deliver benefits in health, cognitive, social and emotional development and build resilience, creativity and environmental stewardship in our children.


Defining a Natural Space

Natural play spaces use a blend of natural areas, environmental features and plants to engage and challenge children and encourage them to learn about the natural world around them.  

Swings, slides and elements typically found in ‘pre-formed’ playgrounds can be included but natural play spaces focus on also offering ‘unstructured’ activities for learning and spontaneous and imaginative play and problem-solving.  

Some of the typical elements of a functional and effective nature play space include: 

  • a nature zone (e.g. plants/trees and loose materials like pebbles
  • bark, rocks, nuts, sticks etc)
  • sandpit and digging patch
  • water play
  • outdoor meeting spaces/cubby structures
  • equipment for loco motor development (e.g. balancing, swinging, sliding, climbing)
  • music

Nature Play Committee

The Newman Nature Play Committee was formed in October 2014 and is dedicated to providing engaging and challenging nature play spaces for students at Newman College.

The Committee is made up of College staff and parents who work together to research, plan, design and implement functional and effective nature play spaces at Newman.

The Committee is also responsible for fostering a school culture that recognises the ongoing value of nature play for our students and the importance of environmental advocacy in our school community. 

We are always on the lookout for nature play enthusiasts so if you would like to join the Nature Play Committee, or have a great nature play idea you’d love to share, please contact Paola Rich at



Why Nature Play is Important

Research across the world supports the view that unstructured outdoor play is fundamental to childhood and helps children develop to their full potential.
Researchers at the University of Western Australia have identified that natural playgrounds provide children with more opportunities to develop gross-motor skills than typical pre-formed playgrounds.
Contact with nature has also been associated with a number of health benefits for children, including improved cognitive function, increased creativity and improved interaction with adults. 
Nature play spaces are recognised as:
  • allowing for overall physical development, with research showing that active children do better at school
  • providing children with opportunities to develop self-regulation and executive function – a child’s ability to make decisions, resolve conflict, create and execute ideas
  • helping children to learn to recognise, assess and negotiate risk and build confidence and competence
  • encouraging imaginative play, which helps build curiosity, innovation and creativity
  • reducing children’s stress and inattention through a connectedness with nature


The Nature Play Committee has been busy over the past 12 months researching the all-important elements that go into a functional and effective nature play space. 
Of course, one of the most important factors in designing a nature play space is finding out what the children want. 


Student-plansIn 2014, all students from Kindy to Year 2 (that’s just over 300 children) were asked to design their ultimate nature play space and the outcome from this assignment was wonderful!
With much enthusiasm and excitement, our students quickly listed water play, bridges, cubbies and outdoor meeting spaces, sandpits, climbing equipment and lots of natural materials to let their imaginations run wild.
We’re pretty confident we’ve consulted the experts and their ideas are spot on!


Input from our teaching staff on nature play spaces is critical as they are instrumental in helping students reach their full potential and, where possible, incorporating nature play into elements of the primary curriculum. 
Staff at the Marian campus identified the following as the key elements to nature play for children in Kindy to Year 2: 
  • shaded areas provided with natural materials
  • the use of natural materials where possible; logs, tree stumps, boulders, as well as loose parts like bark, rocks, leaves, nuts etc
  • vegetation included to create a ‘natural’ play space
  • connectedness between areas; paths, ropes, bridges etc
  • equipment for loco motor development (balancing, swinging, sliding, climbing)

opportunities for:

  • children to construct and design spaces eg dens, cubbies
  • creative play with sand, water, mud and other loose materials
  • music and connection with animals (live and/or structures that look like animals)
  • social interaction and ‘hanging out’ meeting places.


The Nature Play Committee also sought and received valuable feedback from Newman parents and the school community as a whole regarding what they would like to see incorporated into nature play spaces for their children. 
Their responses were very similar to that of our students and teachers and all feedback has been incorporated into our nature play space designs.


Healthy risk in play is good for children.  After all, we don’t want their play space to seem unexciting and unchallenging. However, risk does need to be balanced with a degree of safety. The Nature Play Committee therefore consults with Kidsafe for the planning stages of all nature play spaces and elements at Newman College to ensure safety requirements are factored into the design process.

Planning & Design

PHASE 1 – Marian Campus

The Newman College Nature Play journey starts at the Marian Campus where four (4) natural play spaces will be incorporated into the existing playground structures/areas in a staged approach.
This will include the play spaces around the perimeter of the main oval and in the surrounding play areas used by Years 1 and 2. Plans for Stage 1:
 Nature Play Concept Plan Marian Campus Main Playground Area
Excavation and form-work of the Yr 1 & Yr 2 playground area.
This will include the play spaces between Kindy Blue/Kindy Yellow and Kindy Red/Kindy Green and the Pre-Primary play space. Plans for Stage 2 will be available soon.
Generally, the nature play spaces will include:
  • shaded areas provided with natural materials – balancing the need for man-made structures while allowing time for plants to grow and flourish
  • the use of natural materials where possible; logs, tree stumps, boulders, loose parts like bark, leaves, nuts etc
  • vegetation to create a ‘natural’ play space
  • connectedness between areas; paths, ropes, bridges etc
opportunities for:
  • children to challenge themselves and integrate an element of risk
  • children to explore and construct and design spaces eg dens, cubbies
  • creative play with sand, water, mud and other loose materials
  • music and connection with animals
  • physical games and informal sports; grassed open spaces for chasey, ball games etc
  • social interaction and ‘hanging out’ in ‘meeting placeslocomotor play like balancing, swinging, sliding, climbing and hiding

Case Studies

Would you like an insight into what’s achievable in the wonderful world of nature play? Check out some of the fantastic nature play spaces popping up at schools, parks and community centres across Western Australia, many of which provide inspiration for Newman’s very own Nature Play Initiative. See the links below for some great examples:
If you have a great example of a nature play space or nature play project we’d love to hear about it. Please send details to

How You Can Help


Starting from as little as $50 you can sponsor your very own part of the nature play spaces at Newman.
Whether it’s a balancing log, stepping stump, tee-pee or mature tree or something on a larger scale like a messy materials adventure zone, we have sponsorship packages to everyone from individuals and families to businesses and major suppliers. 
Each sponsorship package has some great benefits linked to it. Please refer to the document attachedNature Play Initiative Sponsorship Packages FINAL


We are looking for people to contribute a range of materials and resources so we can include as many elements in the nature play spaces as possible.
Some of the key materials we need include:
  • sleepers
  • concrete tunnels
  • large wooden boxes, crates, wooden bins etc to store donated materials on site
  • timber and rope products
  • reticulation/water pump products
  • rocks, pebbles and boulders
  • soil products such as sand and mulch
  • logs and tree stumps
  • plants (trees and shrubs of all kinds)
  • Mature trees – citrus, fruit, deciduous, native 
  • access to small earth moving equipment (ie bobcat)
  • carpentry skills
  • engineering/construction know-how/skills
  • rubbish removal possibilities
  • labour, labour and more labour!
If you can help with any of the above or have any contacts in the relevant industries and know someone who would be happy to help, please contact Paola Rich at or call 08 9387 9900.

Busy Bee

Calling all green thumbs, carpenters, handy men (and women of course!), general all round nature play enthusiasts…and anyone else who is keen to burn a few calories (and build some muscle) with some good old fashioned physical labour!  Get ready to roll up your sleeves and show your kids that many hands do indeed make light work.
We will be holding a number of community-based Busy Bees to prepare and install our nature play spaces. Dates for Stage 3 Busy Bee's TBC.
Please email if you can help.

Grants and Funding

In addition to financial support from the Parents and Friends Association and the Parents’ Auxiliary the Newman Nature Play Committee is also keen to secure any applicable grants / funding opportunities for our nature play spaces.  Examples include grants for native or vegetable gardens, sustainable water saving elements and incorporating art into nature. If you know of any suitable grants or funding opportunities please email Paola Rich at

Friends of Nature Play

Friends of Nature Play

We would like to thank and acknowledge all the individuals, families, business and organisations who have very generously donated their time, skills expertise and energy to the Newman Nature Play Initiative.
Thank you to:
Individuals and Newman Families
The Nature Play Committee members 
The Parents’ Auxiliary members 
Newman College Primary School P & F Members
Glynn and Joanne Abbott
Michelle Afflick
Fred Amalfi
Eudochia Anastasas
Ben Archibold
Michael Arnold
Matt Armstrong
Katrina Armstrong and Ken Walter (Grandfather)
Sheldon and Rebeca Augustus
David and Haley Aylmore
Chris Burton and Ann-Marie Chapman
Adam Capolingua
Penny Carroll
Tom Clark
James Coleman
George Constantine
Brendan Cummins
Lana Darbyshire
Mark Davies and Helen Marchesani
Ross Dempsey
Bruce Dempsey
Taryn Devlin
Caterina Di Biase
Andrew and Antonell Doyle
Matt Dunstan
Jamie Earney
Rob and Paula Ferraro
Steve and Claire Floyd
Andrew and Karen Fowler
Lara Gray
Neil and Deanne Gulvin
Sarah Hill
Neil and Sharon Hookway
Dick and Sally Hookway
Nathan and Tanya Howat
Dave Howson
Robert Jackson
Nigel Jenkins
Adam Lillee
Jo Malaxos
Alicia Mason
Ben Mawson
Carlo and Mel Menchetti
Cassandra Nardizzi
Genevieve Newman
Andrew Ng
Penny Offenburg
Ross and Daniela Prosper
Tom and Kirstie Pupazzoni
Ben and Lisa Ringrose
Paul and Trina Robinson
John Rose
Pauline Sampson
Clair Scott
Adam and Mary Spagnolo
Craig and Claire Stannard
Phil and Alison Taylor & Family
Ross Thomas
Scott and Emma Thompson
Glen and Nat Thompson
Paul and Rebecca Trettel
Francine Trovarello
Justin Turnbull
Michael and Tina Turner
Jason and Jane Warwick
Denis Webb
Adam and Rachel Wheeler
Kerrie White
Shannon Whittington
Marc and Francesca Worley
Kelly Wyeth
Peter Zafiropoulous
Katya Anderson
Phil and Edwina Battersby
Shannon Carty
Melissa Corbett
Melissa Gangemi
Andrew and Sharon Mcauliffe
Tony and Pauline Murphy
Laura Nelson
Terri Phillips
Tina Ravi
Dave and Paola Rich
Justin and Nikita Shaw
Genna Spadaccini
We are also very fortunate to have the support of some parents who have volunteered their time and expertise to develop plans for Stage 1 – the Year 1 and 2 nature play space.

Active Logistics WA
Sourced and provided discounted removal
of cracker dust, soft fall rubber,
sand and grass
Joe and Julie Topini 0418380192
For providing the pest treatment on the recycled
wooden beams at a discounted price
Kim Michailidis 0413 125 782
Build 360 logo
For donating your time to construct the decking
Ben Gray 0402 799 334

For the donation of plants, coordination of the
tree planting day, providing staffing for
the tree planting day and presenting the
sustainability talk  
For providing all the design, tree selection and 
standards and safety consultation and plans
Agnes Dziedzic 0416 269 222
Christie Blizzard Designer
For all the Project Management and
Project Planning for the main playground
CN & M Constantine
For sourcing the concrete tunnel along with the
use of their truck and crane to pick-up and
deliver the concrete and jarrah decking
Coastline Developments
For donating your time to construct the
wooden animals 
                Bob Jane T-Marts              
   For donating the tires for all the nature spaces 9446 6611
holcim logo
For donating the concrete tunnel
Liris Communications
For providing all the necessary PR
and Communications throughout the duration
of the project
 Lo Zucchero
  For donating delicious pizzas to feed
  our Busy Bee Volunteers
PK Construction
For constructing the stage area
amongst the trees
 Soils aint Soils
For providing and delivering the Cracked Pea Gravel
and Landscape Mix for the raised garden beds
TDL Logo
For Consulting Services
Tim Hills 9441 0200 

 For donating delicious continental rolls
to feed our Busy Bee Volunteers
9444 9644
 For providing all the Manila Rope
Tonca Earthmoving
For all the earthworks services and providing
such outstanding quality of work


Contact Us

Contact Us

For all information on the Newman Nature Play Initiative please contact Paola Rich at: