Moloney teaches at Perth’s Newton Primary School, and has a penchant for transforming parts of her classroom into different settings.
“I’ve had a giant fairytale castle I painted, it had a drawbridge going into it, which [the students] loved. They cried when it was packed away.
“I’ve had a beach, I’ve had a hospital, I just find it’s a really nice area where they can go, it’s self-directed play, and it’s relating to their interests,” Moloney says.
Her latest creation, a special space centre, features a rocket tent, space suits (coveralls from Bunnings), safety goggles, giant gloves, calculators, phones, computer screens and keyboards, and books about space.
Only four students at a time are allowed to set off on important learning missions in the centre.
“The things that they come up with in that area are just mindblowing,” Moloney says.
“They get stuck into playing with old computers and old phones, things that aren’t even working, and the oral language that I’m hearing them use, is just brilliant.
“There’s some really detailed conversations going on about who’s going where, and who they’re going with, and ships blasting off. I’m hearing kids counting backwards...” she explains.
Students are also developing social skills, such as taking turns, working together, and helping each other in and out of their space suits, a task which Moloney purposely refuses to assist with.
Some of the resources for the centre have come from Moloney’s trusty box of space resources she has built up over the years, and others have been kindly donated.
“I just put a call out to parents for what they had available to donate, and it took a little while but slowly bits and pieces started to come through.
“When they see what a great time their kids are having and how much their kids love it, then they’re quite willing to help us,” Moloney says.
The idea for the space centre, as well as the other tiny worlds Moloney creates, come from her passion for linking play, creativity and the curriculum.
“So many early years teachers are feeling the ‘push down’ of the curriculum into ECE, [but] it can be done without constant worksheets for these gorgeous ones,” Moloney says.
Moloney says her approach to teaching is very integrated, very hands-on and creative.
The space theme in her classroom crosses over into literacy, numeracy, and, of course, science.
“I go to great effort to make my program play-based, developmentally appropriate and centred on student interests – we still meet the Australian Curriculum outcomes, work with the Kindergarten Curriculum and Early Years learning framework,” she says.
“My theory is that these kids should love coming to school, the program should be exciting and engaging, and they are there knocking at the door each morning.”