Our natural surroundings provide an abundance of learning opportunities on a daily basis. Exploring the environment through natural science not only extends physical development; it provides hands on opportunities to create healthy, resilient and sustainable kindergarten communities.
Bulls, Linton and Roslyn Kindergartens recently joined the Enviroschools programme. Developed by a not-for-profit trust, Enviroschools support children to be active citizens who contribute to restoring and renewing the world in which they live. The programme also helps the kindergartens to assess current sustainable practices, develop new strategies and recognise how the way they use resources affects the environment.
The three kindergartens have received a kit, handbook and early years guide, which integrates into Te Whāriki, the Ministry of Education’s early childhood education curriculum. Enviroschools enables foundational skills, such as literacy and numeracy, to be developed in real life examples. Through exploration and discovery, children develop learning and language, care and creativity, relationships and responsibilities suited to their developmental stage. What emerges is a connection with nature and a sense of belonging to the environment and community.
Bulls Kindergarten’s first project was to create a recycling system for their lunchtime waste. They were already saving scraps to feed the kindergarten’s resident chickens; additional bins were added to contribute to other areas of the environment such as a worm farm and compost. Each bin clearly displays to the children what should be placed inside. The initiative was discussed with the children, who shared their ideas and have since helped implement similar systems at home. “It’s great to see that what we do at kindergarten is having a wider impact in our community,” says Bulls Kindergarten teacher, Kelsi McKay. “Everything links to sustainability for the future of our kindergarten children.”
Non-packaged food items such as fruit and vegetables and the use of compost bins contribute to minimising waste which leads to financial benefits including lower power and waste disposal bills. Children sow, grow and harvest produce from kindergarten gardens and orchards, using the produce for cooking and meals. Learning where their food comes from and how to grow and prepare for eating helps create lifetime healthy habits. Often the crops are shared between kindergarten and home, extending community relationships and goodwill.
Many environmental projects can also be turned into money making ventures, such as Bulls Kindergarten’s worm tea, sold in recycled bottles with money raised supporting various kindergarten projects.
The Enviroschools programme includes professional development for teachers from each kindergarten, who attend national events and then share the Enviroschools programme with Ruahine Kindergartens other 21 kindergartens.
It’s rewarding to know we’re creating leaders,” says Kelsi. “Children become the teachers to their families and peers. We encourage everyone to give sustainable practices a go; they’re fun, easy to implement, and most importantly - benefit us all.”