Bringing up the next crop of sustainability warriors is a passion for Sue Nicholls, a teacher at St Andrew’s Kindergarten in Sydney’s Abbotsford.
“They are the next generation. These three to five year olds are like sponges,” she said.
A hands-on approach to environmental education is embedded into the St Andrews curriculum, with each day involving some kind of natural environment or sustainability-focused activity.
The school has composting, rainwater tanks and a beehive for native bees that don’t sting. Trees are planted, herbs and vegetables are grown, and chickens are hatched each yearin incubators.
Every year Ms Nicholls also sets up a new worm farm from scratch to show a new cohort how it works.
There are also lesson plans on seedlings and lifecycles, and kids are taught about recycling.
“We don’t call it rubbish; we call it landfill,” Ms Nicholls explained.
She also relies on digital media to help get her message across: “YouTube is great.”
Parents are encouraged to get involved, and are asked to donate food scraps to feed the worms and put into composting.
Thanks to the efforts of Ms Nicholls and other teachers at the kindergarten, the school has been nominated as finalists by Canada Bay Council in the 2018 Sustainability Awards in the environmental community organisation category.
The awards ceremony will be held on 27 August.
Environmental education taken seriously in early childcare
Ms Nicholls said her personal interest had been key to driving the environmental program at St Andrew’s.
“You’ve got to have passion. If you’re not interested it’s very hard,” she said.
“A lot of the other childcare services did it because they’d been assessed. Some of them have to do it to pass accreditation. This has sparked a fire in people.”
A criteria related to environmental responsibility features in the , which is a national set of guidelines aimed atraising the quality of education and care across childcare services.
Proof that a service “cares for the environment and supports children to become environmentally responsible” will help boost a school’s score against the National Quality Standard and the national regulations.
The NQF came into effect in 2012 and covers most Australian long day care, family day care, preschool (or kindergarten) and outside schools hours care services.