The KindiCare Excellence Awards celebrate the top performing early childhood education and care centres right across Australia.
2023 Award Winners
Northern Territory Winner
Dripstone Children's Centre
KindiCare●October 22, 2023
Dripstone Children’s Centre is our Northern Territory winner, with a KindiCare Rating of 9.7, and this Darwin long day care goes above and beyond to deliver an amazing program.
Dripstone’s nature-based and alternative approach to early childhood education and care is popular with families; and whether groups are feeding chickens, painting with sticks or going on beach adventures, this childcare community is totally in tune with its environment. Centre Director, Georgia Cleanthous says, “We are always looking at the Gulumoerrgin seasonal calendar in our curriculum, that shows us the seasonal changes for the Larrakia land we inhabit. We look at which animals are most active at a certain time, which plants are in bloom, and what the weather is telling us.” She explains that, “We then pick up on those cues and bring them into the curriculum using natural elements. So, instead of using plastic play dough utensils, we’ll use gumnuts and twigs.” Dripstone Children’s Centre also follows a natural rhythm approach, which means that educators are very perceptive when it comes to the children in their care. They take the time to notice the subtle cues and changes in each child, and always try to remain in the state of ‘flow,’ where everyone is getting their unique needs met in an authentic way, without letting things become too rigid or chaotic. To support this, Dripstone has an integrated ages approach, which means that every child can go where their needs are met and be with the people they need in that moment. Georgia says, “For instance, one educator might be that adventurous person a child will go to when they’re feeling energetic, while another educator might be the person they seek out for cuddles when they’re looking for a calm experience.” The centre is carefully designed to meet early learners’ needs as well. Dripstone has five different rooms – a relaxation room, a dramatic play room, a loose parts construction room, a dining room where cooking happens, and a leafy outdoor area that doubles as a nature atelier (aka workshop) for art exploration. All ages are free to engage in these rooms, but there is some separation too. The Seedlings group aged zero to two years have their own spaces where they can dominate without the older peers, and the Wondering Wildlings is a preschool program that has their own dedicated area as well. The children also get to have their say. The Dripstone Children’s Committee is a brilliant feature of this centre, and it means that the educators consult with the children about the centre decisions, getting them involved on matters that affect them. Dripstone’s Management Committee then actions these items as closely as possible, and Georgia says, “Last year, the children told us that they wanted a crocodile at the centre, and although we could have adopted a salty in a tank, we aligned the decision with our approach of not caging our children or chickens, and thus got a crocodile statue in the outdoor area!” All in all, Dripstone Children’s Centre is a beautiful place to be, with a deep commitment to the natural world and each child’s nature, and we’re excited to see them taking out the top spot in the Top End with this 2023 KindiCare Excellence Award.