The future is looking bright for children today. We are learning the environmental errors of our ways and have woken up to the idea that the fossil fuels which have taken us this far won’t last forever. But as Bob Dylan once said, ‘the times, they are a changin’’. Did you know, recycling bins were added to Australian homes only 20 years ago? Increasingly, offices, schools, universities, and businesses have adopted recycling strategies to help reduce their environmental impact. Children born in the last six years, however, will grow up in this world. In a world where it’s second nature for every home to have a recycling bin, where sustainability is at the back of their minds when deciding whether to throw something out or find a new purpose for it. And that’s encouraging.
Our centres champion all natural environments and this is not only because it looks nice, but also because it ties in beautifully with the outcomes in the Early Years Learning Framework. Outcome 2 encourages children to be connected with and contribute to their world. This is clear when you see children in our centres demonstrating an increasing knowledge of, and respect for, natural and constructed environments. Oftentimes centres will run environmentally-focussed activities that are also used as opportunities to hone fine and gross motor skills. Some recycling ideas include familiarising the green lidded bins with regular rubbish and distinguishing the yellow-lidded bin for recyclables. Re-using old materials and repurposing them in the centre such as old milk bottles that are turned into plant pots are also quite popular, especially during changing seasons and ideas like these are often shared from centre to centre.
There are different ways that educators can promote learning about the natural and built environment. These can include engaging with the community, which is sometimes worked into centre curriculum already, and helps children to feel connected to the society around them. Other ways to promote learning about sustainability in early education include experiments like repurposing items around the centre to serve a new purpose. These changes around the centre are also great discussion starting points on recycling, reusing, and sustainability. Educators are then given the opportunity to showcase the ways our lives are connected to the natural world and also how what we take from it can be put back into the system in a new form.
As the first few years of early development are crucial in giving your child the best start in education, be confident knowing that your child is exposed to ideas of recycling, re-using, reducing, and repurposing what they learn from and interact with each day. These skills may become second nature and as your child continues to grow into an active member of the community, they will know and understand that their actions shape the environment around them. Sustainability will no longer be an afterthought, something that businesses today try to work into their schedules, but a fact of life. Sustainability will be ingrained into their greater perspective, as the stimulating learning environments that were designed to nurture curiosity and promote enquiry continue to help them make decisions as they grow older.
Being, belonging, and becoming are the three main pillars of our Early Years Learning Framework and children being a part of this help show them where they belong. Knowing where they belong shows children how their actions impact those people and things around them. This, in turn, helps them become a socially responsible member of society who shows respect for the environment and may one day wonder what life would have been like for their grandparents who never had recycling bins when they grew up.