Simple Sustainability Practices For Your Learning Environment
Author: Lara Date Posted: 20 September 2016
Sustainability is a huge buzzword.
You see it in the media, in advertising and throughout our education system.
And as it should be! It’s a crucial element to our role and what we want to achieve from the children in our care. As educators, we are trusted with the learning and development of the next generation of adults who will participate in and lead our communities. We want them to leave us well equipped to care for our environment and be embedded with everyday sustainable practices to make a difference to our world. If we are truly educating our students about practices that we would want them to carry on throughout their lives, then we need to intentionally teach these practices as a part of their everyday routine.
|"If we are truly educating our students about practices that we would want them to carry on throughout their lives, then we need to intentionally teach these practices as a part of their everyday routine."|
We know that sustainability can cover so much of what we do in early childhood settings and can often feel overwhelming to take on board, so we’ve compiled a list of simple actions that can be incorporated into any routine with very little setup and maintenance.
Once these actions are introduced and the children you care for are given the responsibility to do these things themselves, we know they will absorb it into their routine, not just in the learning environment but in their home and community also.
As a mother of two small children in early childhood education settings, I know from experience how effective it is! Both my children are insisting on starting a compost patch and asking questions about which bin their yoghurt containers go in, and this is all thanks to the great work their early childhood educators have done to make my children aware of these important issues.
Children really do want to do these things and they enjoy this connectedness to their community and the environment itself. In essence, these are not “chores”, but they are actions of responsible citizens. And isn’t that exactly what we are aiming for in the children we work with?
This list is by no means exhaustive and we would love to hear from you about any sustainable practices that you and your students are doing in your own spaces!
We’ll hazard a bet that if your students are given the chance to compost their food scraps that you’d have a whole tribe of little helpers to get it happening!
Composting is not only environmentally sustainable, but it's also an ongoing, living lesson in Science: the decomposition of food from unwanted scraps into useful fertiliser is fascinating for children and they will be keen to observe the changes occurring and all the bugs they can see! They’ll also be right into collecting the fresh compost and ensuring that it is used to keep your gardens happy. After all, it is compost that they have created!
Want to observe the composting process up close? Check out our See Through Compost Container - perfect to have in classrooms to keep a close eye on what is happening in the compost heap outside!
This is a simple one and I’m sure most of our readers are already doing it: use your paper and cardboard as much as you can!
Reuse printed sheets for drawing on the blank side. Reuse cardboard packaging for construction. We’ve heard of Kinder children discovering that a hand-cranked paper shredder makes perfect jellyfish when the paper is only put through half way!
So use your paper products as much as you can, then send it to be recycled into more paper products.
Create a Simple Garden
Don’t get fancy - if it’s too hard, it won’t be the fun and engaging space it is intended to be. The simplest plants are often the best. Edible plants are best to get the discussion flowing about the food we eat and where it comes from. Native flowers are also a perfect addition with the added bonus of a link to community thrown in there as well.
Allow students to dig, to add the compost, to plant the seeds, to water it and to make decisions about pest control. Being directly involved in creating the space gives ownership and responsibility. When they feel this, they will care for it.
Many schools and settings have them. Very few use them to have regular conversations about sustainability.
Teach students how to knock on the tank and listen to the sounds so they can tell how full the tank is. Doing this before and after it rains shows them how they are saving water for use on their garden or for their play (you could connect your rainwater tank to a hand pump for students to use in their play).
You can give your students a fun way to predict when it might rain with Fitzroy’s Storm Glass. Compare its predictions with regular weather forecasts and see how accurate each is!
Are you already doing some of these things in your regular classroom routine? We’d love to hear about it and even see some pictures if you can share! Tell us about any other sustainable practices that have become embedded in your students’ lives - we’d love to have a chat with you!
If you are wanting to really get going on your quest to embed sustainable practices in your service or school, we recommend for you to download and print our Sustainability Checklist. This checklist will help you assess your currect practice, identify any gaps and develop a plan of action from there!