Claire Northfield was just 16 years old, working at a kid’s indoor play centre in Tuggeranong while studying at Canberra College when she started devising her ideal children’s centre, with dreams to replace the tradition of plastic indoor play spaces with a nature-based, sustainable and environmentally friendly environment.
Fast forward to now, and Claire has implemented many of her original plans including party themes and playground designs in the creation of Pialligo Estate’s Children’s Events Centre—The Possum Patch.
Claire says her role as the Children’s Events Coordinator for Pialligo Estate is the perfect job for her at this stage in her career.
Pialligo Estate’s The Possum Patch on Beltana Road offers children the opportunity to connect with the land and learn about the origins of their food through their ‘paddock to plate’ philosophy.
The Possum Patch has a range of activities available for children such as the option to book birthday parties, cooking classes and more. During each of these experiences, children have the opportunity to learn in a hands-on manner as they pick fruit from the orchard, grow vegetables in the market garden and use that produce to make tasty, fresh food.
Claire says the philosophy of The Possum Patch aligns with her own experiences growing up in Canberra,
“My grandma had an amazing garden in Pearce full of fresh produce and multiple vegetable patches. As a child, this garden was a magical wonderland where I spent hours wandering around, watching fish in the pond, feeding the birds, hunting for four-leaf clovers and picking flowers to make flower crowns and mudpies.” These fond childhood memories are what inspired Claire to be involved in Pialligo Estate.
She says she was always going to be involved in educating young people but yearned for teaching in less-formal, more realistic contexts. Claire says, “I like teaching but the structured learning environment wasn’t for me. I really love the idea and reality of learning through play rather than sitting in the classroom.”
And Claire’s commitment to educating others started extremely early in her life. “I’ve always wanted to work with children. I think I ran my first holiday program when I was about eight years of age. I gathered all the kids in our neighbourhood and we set up an outdoor classroom environment. Of course, I was the teacher.
“We spent the day playing schools and when the street lights turned on, that was our cue to pack up and go home.”
Claire is still a teacher, but not in the conventional sense. Having spent four years at Canberra Girls Grammar as Director of the 99-place After School Care and Holiday Program services at the Junior School and Early Learning Centre, she has worked as a teacher and educator in a variety of settings, and still serves on the ACT Pedagogical Leadership Network, supporting other educators in Canberra.
Her background provides the perfect preparation for her latest challenge as the Children’s Events Coordinator at The Possum Patch. This role combines many aspects of her life thus far and echoes her educational philosophy.
“I like to see kids develop their own knowledge and facilitate their own learning experiences,” says Claire. And this is the backbone of the learning opportunities provided at The Possum Patch.
The Possum Patch is located on Beltana Road and opens on the first weekend in July.