The winner and four finalists of the Toddle Green Awards have been announced, with the awards designed to celebrate the amazing achievements of child care centres around Australia in the area of sustainability.
Australia’s most trusted child care comparison site, Toddle, and our charity partner Millennium Kids, were lucky enough to speak with the five centres to find out a bit more about what sets them apart as a ‘green’ child care centre.
For parents, these are the sorts of things you could look for when selecting a child care centre.
1. Hands-on activities for children
The winning centre, Western Sydney University Early Learning Penrith shared their humble beginnings as a centre with just a single passionfruit plant growing on the fence. From there, they added a veggie garden and once the produce started to grow the children were hooked. They were so excited to try the cherry tomatoes and snow peas fresh from the vine and this really spurred the centre on, with their excess produce even being given to the families at the centre (many of which are students on low incomes).
2. Taking a risk based approach
The centre manager encourages the educators to take a risk based approach within the centre, using real gardening tools instead of plastic, allowing the children of all ages to climb trees and use the equipment of their choice.
3. Encouraging child-led projects
One child’s drawings to explain his personal experience of driving through the bushfire affected south coast in early 2020 led to the centre taking part in an 18 month project on the topic. The centre brought in RFS uniforms and hoses for the children to use for dramatic play, worked with local indigenous groups to help the children understand the Aboriginal perspective of fire management, and are even considering a future art exhibition with all of the children’s bushire-related artwork on display.
4. Bringing in Indigenous perspectives
For one of our finalists, Leap Ahead Learning Montmorency in Melbourne, considering the local Indigenous perspectives and incorporating this into the curriculum has been invaluable. The centre teaches the children about how the Indigenous communities look after the land. They teach the children the philosophy of only taking what we need and always giving back.
5. Considered purchasing of resources
The centre also considers any purchases from a sustainability perspective. For instance if they need some new furniture or shelving, they would look at buying second hand from Gumtree or Facebook marketplace rather than buying new. For other resources for the children, they consider the country of manufacture, whether it is organic, can it be eventually composted or recycled, and what is the carbon footprint of the product.
6. Educators that share the sustainability philosophy
When new educators apply for jobs with the centre, they’re given a lot of information on the centre’s sustainability philosophy to ensure that they are on the same page. The centre manager gives keep cups to new educators as a welcome gift, and to further reinforce the message that they want to reduce waste.
7. Children are part of the decision making process
For Leading Edge Childcare Morayfield in Queensland’s Moreton Bay, asking children and families for their input has meant their sustainability goals have buy-in from everyone from the start. Their recent plans to renovate their playgrounds started with a survey to ask the children and families what they wanted. The children asked for more natural things, more grass, softer spaces and fun ways to interact with nature. By co-designing the playground with the children, they were able to include everything they wanted, while also role modelling democracy and inclusion.
8. Outdoor play and a sense of agency
For McGraths Hill Learning Centre in Sydney, being on five acres certainly helps encourage the little ones to play outside. But they’ve got a specific policy that means the children decide where they play at any time of the day, rather than having dedicated ‘indoor’ or ‘outdoor’ time each day. The educators shared that they love seeing the children outside in nature, at the top of the tree, risk taking, and building friendships. The children keep their own gumboots at the centre to let them connect with nature anytime, and the centre sees risk taking is at the core of learning.
9. Excursions as a way to connect with community
At Explore & Develop Annandale in Sydney, children of all ages head out on regular excursions (and they’ve simplified this for parents with an annual permission note to cover all trips out of the centre). Despite being in the inner city on a rooftop, the centre gets out into nature with visits to different reserves and parkland each week for bush kinder.
10. Reducing food waste
This centre wanted to ensure that they were limiting food waste as part of their meal preparation. They were able to find a caterer for their lunches that was on board with using glass containers for the food which could be washed and reused, rather than disposable packaging. The centre also uses lunch leftovers and produce from the garden to make their own afternoon tea, with the children lending a hand in the kitchen.
So there you have it! Some really interesting and innovating ways that child care centres are taking their sustainability ethos to the next level. Be sure to ask about your child care centre's sustainability philosophy, as you may be surprised about just how much they’re already doing to teach the next generation about caring for the environment.
Want to read more about the Toddle sustainability campaign, including our children’s storybook narrated by media personality Erin Molan? Click here. Or visit our shop here to support our charity partner Millennium Kids, with our book and sticker packs.
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