In keeping with KU’s value of sustainability, we put greater emphasis on the concept of early childhood education for sustainability in the past financial year.
Education for sustainability, widely known as EfS, aims to transform thinking, ethics and values that support lifelong learning for ecological and social justice. EfS in the early childhood curriculum empowers children to contribute to and create change for sustainability. KU’s strategic framework for EfS is transforming decision making and informing sustainable practices across our organisation.
The structure of the framework is based around three primary themes: our environment; economics and prosperity; and people and partnerships. Within the framework there is a range of resources such as the Becoming Eco Smart Together (BEST) program accompanied by the Because we Care Education for Sustainability in Action handbook, designed to support communities as they achieve greater sustainability.
By the end of 2021, 39 KU services had commenced BEST, supporting curriculum and pedagogy transformation, beyond knowledge and skills attainment to supporting critical systemic thinking for change though a focus on developing sustainability mindsets.
There are many learning opportunities that can be linked to the goal of transitioning towards a sustainable world where the needs of both current and future generations are met. And as evidenced by the wide variety of programs executed by our services in 2021, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach.
During the year, KU West Pymble Preschool’s EfS plan caught the attention of the Better Business Partnership Program – a free council funded sustainability scheme supporting businesses on Sydney’s North Shore.
The service was named as a 2021 Better Business Awards Finalist due to its strong sustainability philosophy that translates into everyday decisions such as purchasing art and craft materials, new furnishings and avoiding use of non-renewable resources.
Further, sustainable practices are embedded in the curriculum at KU West Pymble Preschool and are reflected upon consistently.
Educators at the service contribute to professional dialogue to assess and shape teaching and learning that promotes an ecological and sustainable focus in curriculum decision making. They keep up to date with current research, resources and best practice through newsletters, journals and support agencies, including local community organisations.
The educational program is designed to provide opportunities for children to connect with the natural world at the service and give them the opportunity of participating in excursions and community events throughout the year such as National Tree Day (August), National Recycling Week (November), Clean Up Australia Day (March), along with a variety of citizen science events such as the Aussie Backyard Bird Count (October).
“We live in Australia, it’s on Earth I want it clean. Earth has to be clean; we will get sick if it’s dirty.”
- Lucas, four-years-old
KU Chatswood Community Preschool is a long-standing member of the Early Childhood Environmental Education Network (ECEEN). Over the years the service has been recognised and awarded for their work in this space in the Sustainable Practice Recognising Outstanding Practice (SPROuts) Awards. In 2021, the service’s work in developing a community compost system won them second place on the podium.
At first, families with children enrolled at the preschool were invited to donate their compost to help generate healthy soil in the service’s garden beds. This was expanded to invite children who had left the preschool to continue to be part of the composting program. A partnership forged with the local council gave access to resources and a public space next to the preschool where the community compost system could really flourish. Children and families eager to pay it forward distributed flyers about the new community compost system in local letterboxes, demonstrating the high engagement of this initiative.
KU Grevillea Preschool has been operating in Sydney’s Hornsby Shire for almost 50 years. In 2021, the service’s community began by exploring, “the kind of world we want and the kind of people we want to be”. Creating this vision guided their work in strengthening children’s knowledge of their place.
The children at KU Grevillea Preschool learn about their place with their heads, hearts, hands and all their senses by immersing themselves in the natural environment. It’s by being in and rejoicing in nature, noticing, investigating and documenting its changes that children have learned to protect it and share their joy and knowledge with others.
While COVID-19 restrictions minimised many of the children’s nature experiences outside the gates, the educators at the service looked for other ways to strengthen elements of their sustainability program.
One way the children were able to learn about their relationship with the world was through a newly implemented recycling program. This has not only won accolades through the ECEEN SPROuts Awards, but the preschool has now become a community hub for hard-to-recycle oral care waste and several other products.
The children now understand the role they play in caring for and protecting the environment. In the words of five-year-old James, “I want a nice clean world. Then it won’t be stinky! So don’t make so much rubbish, don’t buy too many plastic things.”
We acknowledge and consider both our heritage and our future. We embrace our responsibilities within the world around us – to our children and communities, our people, our environments, and the long-term sustainability of our organisation.
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