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May 13, 2021

Free play at preschool leads to critical thinking in later life

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Ms Gold says she is thankful for the support, courage and the trust that came from the community. Photo Jeff Dawson

Paul Bibby

The little moments of imagination in action have always been the most cherished for Ellon Gold throughout her 30-year teaching career.

‘It’s when the children use the environment to create what they need – like putting a cloth over a box and pretending it’s a computer – that’s what I really love,’ Ms Gold says.

‘When you see children in self-structured free play like that, you know that it’s going to metamorphose into critical thinking later in life.’

‘That’s so important and I don’t think we value it enough.’

For three decades, Ms Gold has been a valued member of the Steiner teaching community, the last nine years of which were spent at the helm of the Periwinkle preschool in Byron Bay.

But the Ocean Shores resident has decided to retire from teaching and has just left her role as director at Periwinkle.

‘I won’t say it’s always been easy but it’s also been a gift,’ she says.

‘I really found my life’s work when I went to Steiner. I really felt it was where I was meant to be. The support and the courage and the trust that have come from the community, not just at the start but year after year, has been amazing,’

After completing her Steiner training in 1985 and then a teaching degree in Wollongong, Ms Gold worked at the Stanford Valley Steiner School in Brisbane before joining Periwinkle in 2009.  

She says she has seen many changes in her time as a teacher, particularly the experience of parenting.

‘In past times, parents were a bit more protected,’ she says.

‘There weren’t so many outside influences.’

But Ms Gold’s teaching philosophy has remained the same.

‘If we build solid foundations for our children through deep respect and care and value them as human beings, then they will have something that they can carry into the rest of their lives.’    

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