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Reflections Magazine : Reflections Issue 57 Summer 2014
13 REFLECTIONS • GOWRIE AUSTRALIA • SUMMER 2014 - ISSUE 57 It is now widely recognised that humanity faces urgent problems affecting local, regional and global environments, and social and economic development. The Earth's limited natural resources are being consumed more rapidly than they are being replaced, and the effects of global warming upon ecological balance and bio-diversity are well known. Which bin does this belong in? Edina Kartal Gowrie (WA) Inc. A powerful statement was made in 1997 in the United Nations Decade for Education for Sustainable Development (UNESCO) Report, Educating for a Sustainable Future, "Education is humanity's best hope and most effective means in the quest to achieve sustainable development" (Samuelsson & Kaga, 2008). There is a strong agreement and alignment amongst leaders and the early childhood education and care sector, that educating for sustainability should begin very early in a child's life. The following recommendations are listed in United Nations Decade for Education for Sustainable Development (2005-2014) for early childhood education (ECE) services worldwide. ECE services are encouraged to: • evaluate the service opportunity for growth and the promotion of changes to implement sustainability practices; • review strategies and pedagogies in order to implement sustainability teaching practices within the service; • include sustainability in the curriculum through content that fosters caring attitudes and empathy towards the natural environment; • involve families and the wider community in sustainable practices emanating from the service. Governments are encouraged to: • increase investment in order to expand access to quality early childhood education to implement sustainable practices; • invest in teacher training as a basis for learning and teaching about education for sustainable development. It is in early childhood that children develop basic values, attitudes, behaviours and habits, many of which will remain evident throughout adulthood.With this in mind, early childhood education for sustainability should be much broader than simply taking children outdoors to discover the beauty of nature and speaking about the natural environment. It must include opportunities for children to engage in intellectual dialogue regarding sustainability, and to support children in their quest to develop understandings about sustainability and environmental care. For example, a child centre can commence a shared project focusing on 'Saving our Environment' and the project can be seen as a journey of learning using appropriate language, embedding sustainability into everyday practices and introducing new ideas through investigation. Displaying the framework of the project as in, for example, the diagram below, demonstrates the value of children's ideas, supports their learning and attests to the power children have in sustaining their own environment with support from their educators. Early childhood education settings and services need to be environments where sustainability is communicated and practised.This means that all ECE settings should examine their own ecological footprints and work towards reducing waste in energy, water and materials. Some of the recommendations outlined by UNESCO may be seen as daunting or challenging to early childhood service providers, especially if they have never implemented environmental care and sustainability practices in the past. But, the key is not to overthink the task, but to start one small step at a time. An early childhood education and care centre in the metropolitan suburb of Kewdale in Western Australia has made efforts to implement the recommendations set out by UNESCO and the Early Years Learning Framework.The centre's journey began in 2012 when an organisational strategic plan was developed with the inclusion of sustainability as a focus for the future. The initial assessment within the centre identified the areas that needed immediate attention and improvement. Strategies were developed, as well as longer-term goals, and a plan was formulated to assist children to take ownership of their environment. In 2013 the Kewdale centre 'revamped' their outdoor environment with sustainability and environmental care at the forefront of their design ideas. The design of the play area was considered and, in consultation with children and families, the environment now reflects an environmentally sensitive play space for open exploration and investigation, with natural resources supporting children's learning and development.
Issue 56 Spring 2014
Reflections Issue 58 Autumn 2015