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Sustainability begins with early learning

Knowing that children will be the future caretakers of our environment, Pacific Lutheran College has embedded an impressive sustainability program throughout their Early Learning Centre… and with great success.

Educators at Pacific Lutheran Early Learning Centre believe that learning about sustainability starts with everyday practice. “Babies and toddlers can begin by watching adults model these behaviours, and they may learn through song or rhyme as educators verbalise what they are doing,” says Sue Zweck, Head of Teaching and Learning (K–5) Pacific Lutheran College. “Once children reach three years old, they can begin to reason why practices are needed and to understand the impact that their actions have on the planet.”

To achieve this, Pacific Lutheran College start their students’ environmental learning early, embedding sustainable practices in the children’s daily routine and throughout their day-to-day activities at their Early Learning Centre. These practices include:

  • Using recyclable materials where possible.
  • Encouraging children to use half-flush on the toilets.
  • Encouraging children to turn the water off when they have washed their hands.
  • Encouraging children to recycle paper and rubbish within their rooms, at home and when in the wider community.
  • Talking with children about electricity and encouraging them to turn off lights.
  • Educating children in the natural decomposition cycle through exposure and participation in worm farms and composting food scraps.
  • Educating children and having them participate in ‘garden to plate’ activities.
  • Educating children in how to care for pets and letting them actively participate in caring for the Centre pet.
  • Educating children on caring for plants and waterways.
  • Upcycling furniture.

Sustainability can be seen beyond the classroom too. “We grow our own herbs, pawpaw, apples, bananas, passionfruit, strawberries in winter and cherry tomatoes in summer, which we eat for our afternoon tea!” explains Sue. “The garden is watered with recycled water from our water tank, and we use sustainable cups and plates for the children’s meals.”

The Centre has also found that the little things make a significant difference. “We’ve halved our use of paper towel, simply by using recyclable cloths to wipe down surfaces,” explains Sue.

This program extends to teaching the children for their own future, involving them in every aspect of Centre life. “Our little students love being able to help! In our Early Learning Centre, all the everyday jobs that need doing are done with the children – unpacking the dishwasher, wiping chairs, organising plates,” says Sue. “It’s lovely to involve them, and important that these routines are a natural part of each day for when they are older.”

Taking it one step further, Pacific Lutheran’s Early Learning Centre also encourages the families to become involved. “Our wider community is encouraged to adopt sustainable practices and share ideas, as a commitment to our children and their future,” continues Sue.
“This could be things such as recycling and reusing materials in the home, using environmentally-safe products, reinforcing the Centre’s practices of turning off taps and lights, and participating in Centre activities and events relating to conservation.”

Later this year, the Early Learning Centre hopes to introduce a native non-stinging bee hive, so the children can explore bee keeping and understand pollination. “The bee hive is a something we are working on at the moment,” says Sue. “It will provide such a lovely investigation for the children, and they will even be able to taste the honey along with their fruits from the garden for afternoon tea!”

“We are committed to protecting our environment to ensure a sustainable future for our children,” Sue says, “and through continuous improvement we strive to be better tomorrow than we are today.”

Simple things to do at home

  • Role model sustainability through recycling, water conservation, electricity usage.
  • Promote a healthy mindset through healthy eating and gardening.
  • Use natural resources where possible, such as drying washing outdoors in the sun.
  • Assist children in developing an understanding and respect for the environment and encourage critical thinking.
  • Use environmentally friendly products whenever possible.
  • Use recyclable items for arts and crafts or bring into the ELC.
  • Recycle water from water bottles and water play into the garden.
  • Set up a worm farm.
  • Plan excursions and projects focused on sustainable practices and native wildlife.

Mrs Sue Zweck is Pacific Lutheran College Head of Teaching and Learning K-5.

This post is thanks to Pacific Lutheran College. Pacific Lutheran College is a coeducational Kindergarten to Year 12 independent private school of the Lutheran Church of Australia, serving the Caloundra, Kawana and Hinterland communities on the Sunshine Coast. The Pacific Lutheran Early Learning Centre is co-located on site.

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By Claire Gilligan
WITH A FIFO HUSBAND WHO WORKS AWAY WEEKS AT A TIME, CLAIRE ENJOYS FINDING FUN, LOCAL THINGS TO DO AND PLACES TO VISIT TO OCCUPY HER AND HER TWO GIRLS' TIME. ORIGINALLY FROM SYDNEY, CLAIRE AND HER FAMILY LOVE ALL THE THINGS THE SUNSHINE COAST HAS TO OFFER AND ENJOY SHOWING IT OFF TO VISITING FAMILY AND FRIENDS. Kids on the Coast is 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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