A discarded plastic bag found on a day at the beach led the children of Neighborhood House in Albert Park to set up their own regular beach clean-up crew.
Educators from the early learning centre followed the children’s ideas and developed a trolley with gloves, tongs and a bucket, and now their beach kinder days are also beach clean-up days.
This is one of many ways that children at this centre are making a meaningful contribution to their local community. Using leading edge research, the resources they have at hand, and activities already happening in their community, the centre’s educator-led sustainability team are incorporating sustainability into their everyday practices.
“We are delighted with the ongoing impact that our sustainability project has had on our whole centre community”, says Kate Hall, Neighborhood House Director. “It is an extraordinary example of the power of collaboration and the strength that a community can have by coming together and making a sincere difference.”
The children’s contributions also benefit them developmentally. Their beach clean-up is an opportunity for children to inquire and develop an awareness of the impact of human activity on the environment and the interdependence of living things.
Donating things their centre no longer needs at their local op shop provides children with the opportunity to learn about gratitude, giving, how to repurpose resources, and making a better choice to help others who are in need.
Spending time at their local nursing home every fortnight running art, music, gardening and cooking activities with the residents enriches the lives of everyone involved. The children are learning about diversity, inclusivity and different cultures, experiencing the benefits and power of giving to, and receiving from, our wider community.
They also spend time observing and participating in activities with community gardeners at nearby Mary and Basil Community Garden. Time in this garden allows children to observe how the community works together and see sustainable living in practice.
For example, watching a local parent putting their food scraps in the community compost at the garden led to conversations about the importance of recycling food waste to grow more vegetables and fruits.
These learnings are being explored back at the centre as well. Neighborhood House have a garden at their centre that they set up using food scraps donated by the centre community – families, educators and centre chef.
Children and families are invited to be part of every aspect of the sustainable food process - including collecting rainwater for planting, composting, the worm farm, and harvesting and enjoying the vegetables they grow. With the help of the centre’s chef, children are creating menus based on the food that is growing in the garden. Families are actively encouraged to bring their food scraps from home to be used in the centre’s on-site garden and compost. These activities help embed healthy eating and sustainability into the children’s daily practices and allow families, children, educators and staff to develop a holistic view of sustainability practices.
It’s hard to imagine anything but a bright future for the children at Neighborhood House who have experienced such a rich start to life as contributors to their local community.
About Neighborhood House
Neighborhood House has been a member of Seedlings, City of Port Phillip’s early learning for sustainability program since 2013. Through this program they have continued to incorporate sustainability education into their curriculum and reduce their energy use, water use and waste generation.
Neighborhood House (also known as South Melbourne Child Care Cooperative) is a not-for-profit, community-owned service in Albert Park offering education to early learners, kindergarten and pre-school children.