Case Study: CHCECE031
Case Study Assessment: CHCECE031
Consider the following statement, read the information and answer the questions
If sustainability can also be considered more broadly as: ‘being able to meet our current needs without infringing on the ability of future generations to meet their needs’.
Awareness about the cause and effects of climate change, along with the need to adopt environmentally sustainable practices, has grown dramatically in recent years. The growing trend towards adopting ‘green principles’ in early education services is part of a broader sustainability movement, which seeks to meet the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs (World Commission on Environment and Development, in Kinsella, 1987).
Developing children’s understanding of their impact on the environment is the first step towards providing them with the necessary skills to be part of the climate change solution. While it is understandable that families and early education professionals may be concerned about overwhelming children with negative impressions of the future, educating children about climate change does not need to be all ‘doom and gloom’.
Teaching children about caring for the natural environment provides them with a range of opportunities for rich, hands-on learning experiences about nature and the environment, and provokes curiosity, creativity, and critical thinking skills.
Similarly, while it is important for early education professionals to respect the differing values and cultures of children and families attending their service, it should be recognised that sustainability is not so much a ‘lifestyle choice’ as it is a way of living. The intention of adopting sustainable practices should be to encourage a questioning and investigative approach amongst children regarding their surroundings and environment, rather than to dictate a particular set of values.
Incorporating ‘green principles’
It is important that environmental education is incorporated into the service’s curriculum and becomes part of its daily practice, rather than being treated as a separate ‘add on’ subject or theme. It is equally important that sustainability is embraced as a ‘whole service’ approach, in which all stakeholders have a sense of ownership over the process. Talking with management, staff, educators, and families about the rationale behind environmentally responsible practices is one strategy for securing their support.
Services should be aware that there may be some barriers to implementation, such as differing levels of knowledge and experience amongst education and care professionals. Providing early education professionals with the necessary resources, education and support can overcome some of these barriers and enable them to implement sustainable practices confidently and effectively.
One strategy for renewing interest and maintaining enthusiasm is to provide ongoing professional development opportunities. Services could also consider developing a resource folder for early education professionals with media articles, research items, books, journals, and gardening tips, and incorporating sustainability as a regular agenda item for staff and educator meetings.
Sustainability management plans
The first step in developing a sustainability management plan is to review the service’s philosophy using an environmental focus. It is important to consult all stakeholders from the outset to ensure their ongoing commitment to achieving the service’s goals.
This may include:
- discussing children’s understanding of environmental issues
- surveying families about their interest in, and experience of, environmentally sustainable practice
- brainstorming ideas at staff and carer meetings
- setting up an idea log for early education professionals to contribute to as ideas arise
Conducting an ‘environmental audit’ of sustainable practices that are already occurring at the service is a useful tool for developing a sustainability management plan. Services can also consider conducting an audit of their energy use, waste management, water consumption and chemical use.
The purpose of the plan is to guide staff through the process of initiating change by formalising targets, goals, and practices. They can be useful for ensuring the service’s commitment towards meeting goals, as strategies are clearly defined and broken down into more manageable components.
Consideration should also be given to the overall aesthetic of the service. Does it reflect the natural environment, local community, and Indigenous culture? What types of plants are used – are they native or drought resistant?
Services must also consider the design and dimensions of their indoor and outdoor physical environment as not all services will have sufficient space to introduce natural elements such as a worm farm, vegetable patch or rainwater tank.
Services without natural outdoor play areas may be able to incorporate other environmental aspects into their educational program by using natural materials. Monitoring and measuring progress is an important step towards ensuring that tasks are being undertaken in a meaningful and accountable way. Services may find it useful to appoint a sustainability officer or an ‘environment committee’ to steer and motivate the service.
Offering early education professionals’ positions of responsibility may have additional benefits in terms of fostering leadership capabilities. It is important to develop short term, achievable goals and to celebrate achievements, which will help to build confidence about the process. The service’s achievements can be communicated via newsletters (electronic where possible) or a notice board. Small changes can be used as a steppingstone for further change across the service as environmental awareness grows.
Developing a sustainability management plan
The following tasks may be undertaken when developing a sustainability management plan:
- develop a policy
- establish targets for a reduction in energy and water consumption
- re-examine purchasing practices
- implement a recycling program
- re-examine waste management
- implement behavioural change to reduce greenhouse gas emissions
- review cleaning For example, minimise the use of toxic chemicals
- develop a garden or vegetable patch
- communicate achievements with the local community and seeking their input
- participate in conservation activities conducted by the local community
Involving children in implementing sustainable practices
There are several ways children’s involvement can be sought when developing and implementing sustainable practices. Discussion can be stimulated by even the simplest observations, such as prompting children to question where uneaten food scraps go.
Early education professionals can discuss more complex environmental issues with older children, such as the concept of drought, by examining photographs and reading stories.
Children can also be involved in water conservation projects by making signs, drawing pictures, and writing messages about what is needed to conserve water, which can be placed near taps and bathroom areas.
Early education professionals can involve younger children in environmentally friendly activities such as putting food scraps in the compost bin, ensuring that taps are turned off properly and flattening cardboard boxes for recycling. It is also important that education and care professionals talk with younger children about what they are doing in simple ways, and as children develop, they can also begin to discuss the reasons behind these practices, which helps to foster critical thinking skills
Seeking family involvement
Seeking family involvement in pursuing the service’s environmental goals is important for providing a consistent message for children across the home and care environment. The first step in seeking participation from families involves openly communicating about the service’s program. Families should be consulted in the process of developing/reviewing the service’s philosophy to include their feedback for an environmental focus. The service could also consider developing a code of practice in consultation with families that reinforces environmentally responsible practices.
Newsletters are another tool for conveying information about the service’s conservation activities. These can also be used to request donations of materials that can be recycled in the service. Services may seek ideas from families for the design of outdoor settings, such as the types of plants to be planted in the garden and can request their participation in working bees. Families that are new to the service often bring new ideas and enthusiasm about environmental programs. Services may find it useful to enquire about families’ interest in, and experience with, environmental conservation at orientation or enrolment.
Adopting environmentally responsible practices in services can provide children with a range of valuable learning experiences. It also conveys important information to them about the natural world, and the key role that they can play in sustaining it
References and further reading
- Davis J., & Elliot, S. (2003). Early childhood environmental education: making it ACT: Early Childhood Australia.
- Davis, J. (2005). Educating for sustainability in the early years: creating cultural change in an education and care setting. Australian Journal for Environmental Education, 21, 47-
- Young, T. Why do young people need to know about climate change? Retrieved 15 January, 2008, from: http://www.earlychildhoodaustralia.org.au/resource_themes/sustainability_global_warmin g_and_climate_change/why_do_young_children_need_to_know_about_climate_change. html
- Kinsella, R. (2007). Greening services: practical sustainability. Early Childhood Australia Research in Practice Series. 14(3). ACT: Early Childhood Australia.