When I first started working at Pachamama, the incredible environment had a significant impact on me. I recognised how unique and beautiful it was … nothing like I had seen working in other childcare centres.
What initially stood out to me the most was the large fireball. Designed and constructed by artist Martin Jaine using repurposed iron, the fireball swings back and forth supported from the apex of the tripod by a heavy iron chain. It is functional art situated as the centrepiece near the back door above the nature pond.
When I first saw it, I envisioned a family gathering around the fireball cooking delicious treats such as American s’mores or Australian damper. A smile automatically appeared on my face!
As an educator, I realised right away what a great tool it was to help teach life skills and risky play.
Some people may think that including a fireball in a childcare centre is unsafe. Based on my own experience of managing it with care, I know what a great resource it is for intentional and meaningful learning.
Children learn so much about life skills through experience. Research has shown their retention rate is higher through experiential learning. And this is an experience for children to remember!
Risky play amongst children sparks their curiosity. It creates trust and respect. Children thrive when they feel trusted in their ability to make decisions. When we teach the children about fire safety and awareness, it empowers them to manage risky situations for themselves. Exposure to different risks in a well-managed childhood setting can foster children to develop greater confidence in life.
To minimise the risk in preparation for the activity, we ask the children, “How can you be safe during this activity that uses fire?” They often respond that they “should not run around the fireball” in case they fall, “keep their distance” from it, and always “listen” to an educator.
The children understand the fire inside the iron ball makes it hot and, therefore, they should not touch it. We take the opportunity to role model safety and engage in conversations with the children about fire safety and fire management.
The fireball helps children relive wonderful family holidays of camping and sitting around the fire talking, laughing and spending time together. At Pachamama. we are a family, too. What can be better than a family spending a chilly afternoon around a fire talking, engaging and cooking warm and tasty snacks together? It is delightful, engaging and a wonderful learning opportunity.
The children’s faces light up with excitement and smiles. Some children even say that the days using the fireball are some of their best!