Kildare Pre-primary turns 50

Julia Herbst holds a bunny with teachers assistant, Renain Heunis

Kildare Pre-primary school is celebrating half a century of shaping young lives, teaching children to respect one another and care for animals and the environment.

The school – near Newlands stream, which is part of the Kildare Nature Reserve – has 14 staff members and four classes with about 25 children in each class.

Heather Porter, who recently took over as principal, is an advocate of children learning through play.

“Children learn through play; play is not a luxury, it’s a necessity for life,” she said. “Children develop socially, emotionally and they are creative independent thinkers.”

Teacher Laura Son describes the school as a “magical” place to work.

“The environment lends itself to a place of fun, adventure and exploration. Our animals and the nature reserve add to the magic of the school, and our children are independent, creative, kind and forward thinking,” she said.

Established in 1968, the school is owned by the adjacent St Andrew’s Church.

The school held a party last month to celebrate its 50th anniversary. The children made their own crowns and were entertained by a magician.

Apart from the jungle gym, sandpit, swings, see-saw and slides, the children get to play with ducks, chickens, rabbits and tortoises, including Mr Chips, the 90-year-old tortoise who pretty much “owns” the place and is the school’s unofficial mascot.

The children are taken for guided walks in the nature research, learning about plants, rivers, fish and tadpoles. They also do community service, visiting the nearby Maitland Cottage Children’s Orthopaedic Hospital, and serving sandwiches and soup to residents of Cresswell House old age home.