Acknowledgment of country

Polyglot acknowledges that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are the Traditional Custodians of the lands on which we live and create, and we pay our respects to Elders past and present. For more than 65,000 years, children and families have created and played here, and we are grateful to make our art on this country too.

27 May 2024 Education News

Cubbyhood at Gowrie Victoria Clare Court

Writing and photos by Sarah Gardiner, Educational Leader, Clare Court

In May 2024, 12 Kindergarten programs at Gowrie Victoria Clare Court were invited into the world of Cubbyhood, a special place inspired by a question…

“This is a window. This is your window. What can you see?”

Ashlee Hughes, lead artist, Cubbyhood

In Cubbyhood, children are not passive observers, but architects exploring their identity and imagination. As children begin to sketch themselves and their surroundings, paint pens tell a story of who and what matters most to them, weaving a tapestry of home, culture, and imagination. Like stained glass, these drawings are rich in colour and detail, depicting scenes of joy, wonder, and connection.

“This is my garden, and there are flowers all around us, around my family. It is a lovely happy day.”

“You can’t see my mummy because she’s inside the house with me. But we can see rainbows together.”

“This is a dinosaur because I’m good at drawing dinosaurs. There’s a real dinosaur outside too, in the park.”

Gone are the tables, computers, chairs – removed from the teacher’s planning room for Cubbyhood to begin construction. Children’s thinking takes centre stage in a typically adult dominated space. Plain black paper and grey tiled floors provide the backdrop to a cardboard neighbourhood that begins to evolve.

In this world, children are town planners. Cardboard boxes are homes, and drawings are portals into their world. Children have the freedom to move, manipulate, arrange, and change the space. They layer it with fluorescent fabrics, and thoughtfully connect it with pegs to create awnings and tunnels. Play with materials allows children to imagine, act and feel in alternate ways. Children tell stories as they play with these materials. They create new narratives and new ways of thinking that allow for the imagination of new possible futures.

“You can share my roof. This will be the best roof of the best house with my best friend.”

In Cubbyhood, play is a gateway to new narratives and possibilities. Stories come to life as children bring their creations to existence. Here, animals roam freely, from pets to creatures of myth and legend.

Dragons roar in the distance, owls hoot under the starlit sky, and a cave of bears awaits discovery, illuminated by the eerie glow of fluorescent paint. In just 30 minutes, an entire day and night passes – time moulds around the children’s stories, shifting and changing as the storytellers instruct. In these moments, the space becomes a sanctuary where time stands still, and the possibilities are endless.

“Close the door or you’ll let the bears in.”

As time spent in Cubbyhood draws to a close, the stories do not fade; instead, they spill out into the world beyond. Left open to explore throughout pickup time, the space entices families to step inside. Children enthusiastically share the stories that unfolded within the walls of Cubbyhood – and families join in, layering their own contributions atop the work crafted throughout the day.

Children and families are the creators of this place. The planners, constructors, narrators, and innovators. Through drawing, storytelling, and play, they learn to navigate the world around them, solving problems and collaborating with others along the way. They tell stories of their families, their community and their friends. In Cubbyhood, every moment is an opportunity to explore, create, share and imagine the extraordinary.

In 2024, Cubbyhood by Polyglot Theatre is supported by a Maribyrnong City Council Community Grant. Formerly known as Family Forts, it was developed by lead artist Ashlee Hughes through The Generator, with support from the City of Casey.