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Reflections Magazine : Reflections Issue 57 Summer 2014
The Queensland Department of Education and Training (2009) definition of sustainability is, "Meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of the future generations to meet their own needs" or, simply put, "Enough, for all, forever" . With that in mind, staff at the University of Queensland's Campus Kindergarten are always conscious of how education for sustainability looks in our programme, and that children are given opportunities to understand how their choices impact on their natural world, "It is both present and future orientated. It's about learning to design and implement actions for the present, in the knowledge that the impact of these actions will be experienced in the future" (Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, 2010: 4) Connecting to the natural world Campus Kindergarten is situated in a leafy environment within the grounds of the University of Queensland. We are so fortunate to have a lush natural environment on our doorstep and we believe that in order to preserve and protect our natural world children need a connection to nature that goes beyond outside play. Children have to use their senses and dig deep into the earth and soil, hold a harlequin beetle gently in their hands, or discover the delight of playing hide and seek amongst our tall bushes. Education staff members recognise the importance of children's connections to the natural world and further support this by posing questions, planning outdoor play together and testing out hypotheses in order to further refine children's understanding of their natural world and the responsibility they have in sustaining it. With the warmer weather, different types of animals from ducklings, to possums, to the tiniest native bees have been coming out into our immediate environment. Children and educators together explore the concept that we are part of the biodiversity of the environment, that it is not just about us, but about everything, including the most fragile of living organisms. The many possibilities of education for sustainability There are many opportunities for introducing children to ways of thinking about sustainable practices. As educators, we need to be cautious and avoid relying on one-off activities. Activities such as worm farms, composting and veggie patches are valuable in introducing children to the concept of sustainability and the challenge is to go beyond this 'green activity' learning. Our vision at Campus Kindergarten is to support children to understand that there are different issues surrounding sustainability and that it can't be solved by merely 'doing' a commercially produced sustainability resource. Our approach is to challenge children's understandings, to allow them to be immersed in uncertainty, to test out those doubts and hopefully to reach an understanding that there is no one correct answer, but multiple solutions. As a centre, we encourage families to bring a litter-less lunch box for their children's meal times. This initiative came about when a staff member realised the amount of waste that pre-packaged goods were contributing to the centre's waste, which in turn goes to landfill. To address this, as a whole centre and with the children we did a waste audit where we collected rubbish for a week and then analysed our data. This activity alone allowed children to be a part of the sustainability process of identifying the issue, collecting the evidence, analysing the data and from there creating some sustainable solutions (Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, 2010). Other projects that came about as a result of the waste audit included an organic versus non-organic breakdown experiment and constructing a recycling workshop out of plastic bags.These activities are some examples of how to further extend learning opportunities and immerse children in critical thinking about making connections on sustainable choices. Additionally, as a centre that values sustainable practices, there are simple ways that we express our commitment to being sustainably responsible - from purchasing natural materials, to encouraging the use of recycled materials in our collages, to reducing the use of paper in the administration building by using e-prints (digital) rather than paper. It takes a community to raise a child Davis (2010) suggests that education for sustainability involves all stakeholders in the early childhood setting and that it is about values, attitudes, ethics and actions. It is neither a subject nor an 'add on', it is a way of thinking, a way of practice. Education for sustainability is interdisciplinary and involves different members of the community with different expertise and knowledge collaborating together to tackle issues that affect sustainability. Again, as a kindergarten that is situated within the grounds of a university, we are so fortunate to have different community links within our reach. We started off with the ones that are the closest to us, the families. We have found that our approach of engaging children to be genuinely active participants in the programme - where their voices are heard and we challenge their thinking and allow them to see the multiple viewpoints of an issue - has tended to trickle into households and indirectly into parents' spheres. This has supported us, as educators, to engage in authentic partnerships with parents. We are also fortunate to be a part of the 'restoration community' of the University of Queensland which works at restoring the natural habitat within the University's biodiversity. This represents one of many opportunities for children to go beyond doing 'green activities'. Children are immersed in thinking of sustainability as being broader than the environment, to thinking about how people and change can influence every living thing. REFLECTIONS • GOWRIE AUSTRALIA • SUMMER 2014 - ISSUE 57
Issue 56 Spring 2014
Reflections Issue 58 Autumn 2015