St Luke’s Anglican School Early Learning Centre

‘As we near the end of the United Nations Decade for Sustainability 2005–14, it is encouraging to note the marked increase in sustainability initiatives within the early childhood profession on a local, national and global scale’

Our challenge is to confront several challenges to the health and well-being of children in the 21st century; lack of exercise, preoccupation with electronic media; lack of outside playtime; isolation from and fear of nature; lack of interest in and understanding our world, including nature and human impact on it. Recent studies have found that nature-based education enhanced the children’s learning and increased their physical and mental well-being.

Environmental education can be defined as learning about the environment and how natural systems function; the interconnectedness of plants, animals, humans and the planet we inhabit. Environmental education promotes the growth of knowledge, skills and values about the environment, often with a focus on science and nature.

Our priority was to promote the philosophy and practice of outdoor programming and environments for young children, and to integrate sustainability and environmental education into everyday decisions made as part of the curriculum.

Since implementing and embedding sustainability and engaging with the outdoor classroom, the most significant changes have been in two key areas.

Firstly, teachers felt increased confidence in how to approach science and sustainability in their teaching and planned to continue with this method of combining open-ended and modelled teacher activity to form purposeful play. Purposeful play helped teachers to have conversations with children that supported intentional teaching about sustainable concepts in practice. Teachers were especially encouraged by the positive reaction of both the children and their families in this recycling and sustainability.

Another significant change, was the different ways to approach teaching and learning about sustainability.  Through different modes of play, and experiences, highlighted how capable young children are in understanding complex concepts.

It was intriguing to hear the children talk about how they considered they were ‘working’ when they were recycling.  The children enjoyed the different modes of teaching and learning, for example, ‘when the teacher taught them how to do it’ as well as just ‘doing it on their own’.

Early childhood educators have a powerful window of opportunity to play an active and significant role in assisting young children and families to understand sustainability issues, concepts and practices.

Catherine Donaldson
Director of Early Learning Centre

Posted with permission.