Groundbreaking Early Start acknowledged in prestigious higher education awards
The University of Wollongong’s Early Start has been recognised in the Australian Financial Review’s Higher Education Awards, a great honour just over a year after the launch of the innovative centre.
Early Start was a finalist for the Facilities Innovation Award, which recognises the projects that have enhanced the staff and student experience on campus.
Officially opened in July 2015, Early Start is a sophisticated teaching, research and community engagement initiative improving our understanding of child development and learning.
It comprises the Early Start Discovery Space, Australia’s only interactive children’s museum; groundbreaking research focused on the earliest years of life; and cutting-edge courses that are building the next generation of professionals focused on the earliest years of life.
It is the first of its kind in the world and incorporates interactive, hands-on experiences designed to inspire children’s imagination and learning. Early Start’s purpose built facilities include a commercial kitchen, model childcare setting, as well as start of the art teaching and learning spaces.
World-leading research influences its degree programs and its technological infrastructure connects with autonomous early childhood education and care services in regional and remote communities to influence the lives of high proportions of low SES, vulnerable and Aboriginal children.
Early Start Acting Chief Operating Officer Grant Hughes said to be announced a finalist after only 18 months of operation demonstrated the impact of the incredible facility on the student and staff experience, and the wider community.
Early Start Discovery Space promotes learning through play and encourages children to be active in both body and mind by offering a range of experiences in which they can explore, create and discover.
“Since opening Early Start Discovery Space, we have welcomed over 145,000 visitors through our doors, and have proven to be a destination of choice for families across Australia,” Mr Hughes said.
“The Discovery Space is a fun, interactive experience for the whole family. It ignites a child’s imagination and aims to inspire a life-long love of learning in young minds.”
Early Start is home to academics and research students engaged in interdisciplinary research that aims to have a positive impact on the education, health and welfare needs of children.
It has partnered with more than 200 childcare centres across NSW and the ACT to put this research into practice, with a particular focus on providing greater opportunities and outcomes for children from vulnerable backgrounds or regional, rural and remote communities.
UOW’s Academic Director, Early Start and Professor of Child Development, Professor Marc de Rosnay, said evidence now showed that the earliest years of life have a disproportionate significance in a child’s development and is the ideal time in which to create positive outcomes.
“Research shows that the effect of high-quality early education, particularly when coupled with support services and family inclusion, can dramatically turn around the cycle of underachievement educationally, socially, and emotionally,” Professor de Rosnay said.
The Australian Financial Review Higher Education Awards, now in their second year, highlight the immense contribution the higher education sector makes to Australia’s prosperity and way of life.
Rosalie McLean, Management Cadet (Marketing and Communications), Early Start
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