Education Fair 2024

An innovative gardening program for Gold Coast early learners

Kids love to dig. They love to get messy and learn and explore, and they learn best when fully engaged in an interesting activity. Knowing the importance of child-led learning and the natural affinity that little ones have with the outdoors, Gold Coast early learning service Sanctuary Early Learning Adventure has combined gardening and experiential learning into an innovative gardening program. It’s a great success!

“To best enhance every child’s learning journey in our care, experience-led learning is at the core of the philosophy at all Sanctuary centres,” says Emeliah Kolinac, Innovations Manager at Sanctuary Early Learning Adventure. “We know most children enjoy being outdoors and love digging in the soil, getting dirty, creating things and watching plants grow, so the program developed from there!”

Why a gardening program?

Gardening is an activity that is enjoyed across all ages. Yet children, in particular, have a lot to gain from the hands-on experience of tending to plants.

“Children can have fun, play and develop self-confidence by spending time in the garden caring for plants and growing their own food,” Ms Kolinac says.

“Through caring for plants, children learn responsibility and respect for the environment. During this experience the children are physically active. They are also open to trying new foods they have helped to grow together.”

Gardening teaches kids life skills

Kids learn a plethora of new skills when they garden, including:

  • Responsibility: Caring for plants is an ongoing thing. Kids learn to regularly check on them, feed and water them, and learn the responsibility of tending to a living thing.
  • Teamwork: Kids learn to cooperate, share and work together. They also develop trust, trusting other team members to do their part in looking after the plants properly.
  • Understanding cause and effect: Plants die without water, weeds compete with plants for nutrients. These simple lessons of cause and effect can then be scaffolded into further learning.
  • Self confidence: Successfully growing your own food and seeing that cycle from earth to table develops self confidence – from achieving their goals.
  • Understanding science and environment: Kids learn about the environment, weather, nutrition, and the life cycle of different plants. This can lead into further learning opportunities in nature and science.
  • Love for nature: Gardening is a wonderful opportunity to be outdoors, connecting with nature in a safe and productive way.

“Gardening is the perfect opportunity for hands-on learning for our children. It’s a major part of our daily lives here,” Ms Kolinac says.

“Our Green Team is hugely popular, and supports children to develop new skills, gain confidence and have fun.”

She says gardening not only educates children in caring for plants, but also teaches them sustainable practices, learning to grow food, and how that makes it to the table.

“Our chefs regularly require fresh herbs from the garden for their recipes,” Ms Kolinac says.

“All of our centres have vegetable gardens and we encourage children to reuse and recycle to all help do our part to protect our world.”

She says Sanctuary’s educators spend time with the children showing them how each child can make a positive difference.

“Our programming emphasises the connection between people, plants, animals and the land.”

There are animals, too!

Adding to this nature-based experience, every Sanctuary Early Learning Adventure centre also has animals.

“When it comes to sustainability and animals they go hand in hand. We believe the lifecycle of every living creature needs to be cared for and nurtured.”

She says the centres compost and use scraps to feed the worms that then create worm tea to feed the gardens.

“We continue using all the nutrients provided to us with little effort. In turn we are cutting down on our carbon footprint and doing everything we can to reduce, reuse and recycle.”

Caring for the animals also enables children to further develop a sense of responsibility and empathy. Fostering a caring approach.

Child-led learning is apparent in most daily activities at Sanctuary Early Learning Adventure centres.

“We have skilled educators who specialise in supporting children to learn through experiences that interest them,” Ms Kolinac says.

“This way we can cater for each and every child, no matter where their exploration takes them that day.”

Sanctuary Early Learning Adventure has centres in Maudsland, Mermaid and Ashmore.

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By Angela Sutherland
After spending many years hustling stories on busy editorial desks around the world, Angela is now mum of two little ones and owner/editor at Kids on the Coast / Kids in the City. She is an atrocious cook and loves cutting shapes to 90s dance music. Angela is the editor of Kids on the Coast - a free family magazine whats on guide for Kids: things to do, school holiday fun and free activities for kids... Fun attractions, family food & travel, kids health & wellbeing, kids parties venues, parenting, pregnancy & babies, guide for parents. Servicing Brisbane, Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast and beyond, Kids on the Coast is an online guide for parents with kids things to do with kids, schools and education and lifestyle news located on Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast & Brisbane, QLD.

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