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Reflections Magazine : Reflections Issue 57 Summer 2014
14 An obstacle course utilises recycled tyres, timber and rocks, large existing trees provide natural shady canopies while grassed areas offer exciting areas to run, play, socialise or eat. Areas of different textures were introduced with the use of rocks, pebbles, mulching and limestone pathways. Recycling bins are used in the children's indoor and outdoor environments with paper and plastic being regularly recycled and children making use of recycled resources and objects in their art and in their investigations. Children regularly help to care for their environment by raking fallen leaves, honky nuts1 and sticks and placing them in vegetation recycling bags. Vegetable gardens are maintained throughout the year providing children with opportunities to learn about growing organic vegetables and to experience the flavour and texture of freshly picked produce. A worm farm enables children to recycle food scraps from snacks and meals, along with other appropriate materials such as paper. The worm farm produces 'worm tea', a natural, chemical free fertiliser which is collected by the children and fed to the vegetable gardens. In addition, children and educators also maintain a compost bin in which organic matter is allowed to rot rapidly to produce a natural, good quality fertiliser for use in the vegetable gardens. These 'waste neutral' practices support wonderful learning opportunities for the centre community. To involve families in the development of sustainable practices, the centre has implemented recycling stations where the children and families are encouraged to recycle objects by bringing their recycling to the centre from home. This was implemented to involve families and to encourage sustainability practices at home as well as in the service. To further reduce the centres' carbon footprint, the service has turned to local food suppliers where possible, for example, meat is now bought from a local butcher who sources meat from West Australian farmers. Another centre initiative is adherence to a daily 'earth hour' when staff turn off all unnecessary lights, computers and power points for one hour during the children's rest period. Educators at the centre have been pleasantly surprised by the manner in which children, other educators and families have responded to the strategies. Children who attend the centre are taking notice of their environment and are actively implementing strategies to care for it, based on what they have learned. The centre coordinator described one particular incident which really captured her attention. One afternoon a group of children in the 3-5 year old age group were invited to help rake the outdoor playground in the infant's area. After a collaborative discussion, including the inventive repurposing of a slide to transport raked leaves to the recycling bags, one child approached the centre coordinator with a bucket full of leaves in one hand and a small decayed cardboard box in the other. The child's observation, "This does not belong in my bucket, this needs to go to that other recycling bin." was clear validation that the strategies put in place to teach children about everyday sustainability and environmental care, were being realised. The question remains, will the recommendation made by UNESCO and the Early Years Learning Framework have a positive impact on the global capacity to make positive changes to the sustainability of our planet? Is one centre's effort in implementing these recommendations going to make a difference? Can one centre be a role model for many others within their community or can it impact a wider radius? We believe that a united effort to equip this generation of children with an understanding of the importance of sustainability and environmental care, is planting the seed for many generations to come. We only have one world... let's not put it in the wrong bin! References: Samuelsson.I.P. and Kaga.Y. (2008). The contribution of early childhood education to sustainable society. UNESCO. Paris. http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0015/001593/159355e.pdf Siraj-Blatchford.J., Smith.K.C., & Samuelsson.I.P.(2010). World organisation for early childhood education. Education for Sustainable Development in the Early Years. ESD book Master. Retrieved: http://www.327matters.org/Docs/ESD%20Book%20Master.pdf UNESCO. UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development 2005 -- 2014. Retrieved: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0014/001416/141629E.pdf 1 'Honky nuts' is a Western Australian term for the seed pods of gum trees, commonly known as gumnuts.
Issue 56 Spring 2014
Reflections Issue 58 Autumn 2015