3 Bears Cottage

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It is with great excitement that 3 Bears Cottage Early Education Service can announce that they once again entered The ACA Early Childhood Education Week Awards this year and walked away with an overwhelming win in four categories. FOCUS had a chat with Director Renae Donovan to find out more … 

We hear you won a staggering four awards this year?

Early Childhood Education Week was a wonderful opportunity for our service to continue raising the public profile of the quality service 3 Bears is delivering to our families, children and the broader community. Participating in this event acknowledges 3 Bears’ commitment to working with the early education industry and being a part of the foundation for a continued brighter future of our children, and we were very excited to be once again on board.

As an attendee on the night of celebrations at the Shangri La Sydney, we were joined by all the finest in the industry and were treated to a night of extreme gratification and the opportunity to reward my team for their hard work and commitment.

What categories were your wins in?

Best artwork illustrating the Early Childhood Education Week theme “Engage, Learn, Play – Play is Educational”.

Best Early Childhood Education Week Program – Regional Large Centre.

Best Program Highlighting the Early Years Learning Framework – Regional.

The Power of Relationships with Children.

Describe how your nominated artwork illustrated the overall theme to win.

When choosing an idea for this entry, our team of educators were inspired to push the limits to include all areas of this year’s theme, Engage, learn, play – play is educational, with only our imagination as the limit.

Our art piece we believe not only encouraged hands on learning through play, but also included an element of engagement, to stimulate the children’s senses: touch, smell, sight and hearing.

Our hovering craft tents through the production phase were introduced to the children with a simple collection of items that they had collected, via their excursion visit to our local opportunity shops, as well as items donated by families and those already within the centre to be used for crafting. 

Through playing with these items on our loose parts table, the children were able to explore and think about what the items are, represent and can be used for. Moving on, we then provided threading items, along with hoops and photographs depicting our final intention. Throughout Early Education Week the children busily and joyfully engaged in this process of experimenting with various methods of constructing their art strands, until they found the process that most successfully worked for them, to be added to the hovering tents.

We encouraged all family and community members to collaborate with us on this art project, by presenting another hoop within our service foyer, along with a table of various crafting supplies that the children had previously gathered (as mentioned above) to add to at their leisure. 

Extended family members like grandparents and older siblings were also able to contribute by offering takeaway craft packs to be completed at home and then brought in for attachment. We had a number of families contribute to our art tents, as well as a number of community representatives that visited our service for various reasons throughout our week.

On completion of our hovering tents, they took prime position in our sensory garden, hung from the pergola, enabling the children to ignite their senses through play, by twirling and spinning through the tents. 

As the children played in the hovering tents, noises of bells could be heard, sounds of giggling filled the air, while twirling colours ignited the sense of curiosity, and movement of the tents and the various fabrics, threads and beads awakened a discovery of how our skin perceives different textures upon touch.

I believe our art project was a powerful tool for building many skills, but by far the most important element was the interactive end focus of our project – an art piece that can be played with. 

Many public galleries are littered with signs, asking people to not touch. But here at 3 Bears, our educators value art and play as tool for engagement, learning and education, and this is where our idea for an interactive art project evolved, “hovering tents”. This project provided a place and platform to build upon our partnerships with our families and communities through the arts. 

What do you think were the contributing factors for 3 Bears’ successes this year?


Connecting people together in a common cause. There is no greater sense of satisfaction than helping others to feel and connect with what you are feeling or passionate about too. 

3 Bears has always valued the importance of doing what a person loves; otherwise, work is nothing more than an effort to complete the day. Like-minded educators ignite ideas, words and meaningfulness, where activities and programs can then be planned for great success.


Early Education Week’s themes in themselves have so much relevance to our industry. Connections with EYLF and the National Quality Standards are made throughout all award categories, making both topics relevant and practical within early education settings. In order to improve the likelihood of success in an activity or program, it at least needs to be relevant. The program at 3 Bears is led by a team of educators with an extensive knowledge of the Early Childhood Curriculum and underpins our commitment to the successful participation of our service in this year’s Early Education Week Awards.


During the lead up to Early Education Week, times are busy; there are more decisions to be made and less time to make them. As the Director of the service, it can be easy to take control and make decisions on your own as quickly as possible, to move things along. However, being calm and making planning visible to the team is the secret. Knowing your team’s background and values to motivate and develop their skills will ensure any activity or program success. A leader who can demonstrate an ability to care about their team’s wellbeing, not just the accolade of winning an award, will promote and build better relationships between the team and willingness for high participation.


The concept of taking the time to reflect – to just sit and think!

In trying to make plans for this year’s awards, it was important to try and understand what worked and what didn’t last year. Feedback from everyone last year needed to be considered, from both the families, children and educators and included not only the positive, but also the feedback you would rather bury. It’s impossible to be successful without thinking about the big picture, and during Early Education Week this is particularly important, as we strived to inspire our creativity and sense of fun. 


Engaging communities does not happen in one week; it takes time in building respectful partnerships and relationships. To be successful in this area, one must be on a journey of giving back. At 3 Bears we are truly proud of our year round community involvement programs, and hence have built some close bonds with many community organisations and are continually growing community respect for our industry. 

Each year when we participate in Early Education Week we are overwhelmed by the support we receive from the media, local business and our families. With all these types of support, it’s no surprise to learn that a major factor for success is to know your community. Our service serves all year as a community centre for families, children and the wider community to enjoy.


A large part of success is having the right state of mind, so we preplanned for a celebration (community fire pit/open night), to take place on the last day of Early Education Week. This allowed participants at the very beginning to visualise a successful end, rather than focusing on a long list of things still to be done. 

Instead, we focused on all the things we had to be proud of, even if we weren’t successful with a win.

What’s happening for 3 Bears in 2019?

It gives us great pleasure to let you know that our staff member Alyssa Lane has been successful in receiving a Rural and Remote Early Childhood Teaching Scholarship. 3 Bears recognises the importance of qualified early childhood teachers in ensuring the delivery of qualified early childhood education programs to our children and look forward to supporting and mentoring Alyssa through her professional studies.

I (Renae) have been elected to the 2018/2019 Australian Childcare Alliance NSW Executive Committee. The ACA is a not-for-profit, member funded organisation. I look forward to advocating for the future of Australia’s children to have access to affordable, high quality early childhood education.

Thanks Renae.

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