FRIDAY 22nd MARCH 2024

“Bringing nature into the classroom can kindle a fascination and passion for the diversity of life on earth and can motivate a sense of responsibility to safeguard it.”– David Attenborough

We were so delighted to be able to welcome 35 Early Childhood Educators to the Eco House & Garden for our inaugural Early Childhood Educators Waste & Sustainability Professional Development day on Friday 22nd March 2024. The event was sold out with a waiting list, so we knew that there was a keenness to explore more in the area of sustainability for early childhood educators. Especially in light of new updates to the approved learning frameworks for early childhood education, which includes a new principle of sustainability specifying three dimensions to consider, economic, social and environmental.

It was wonderful to have so many local centre educators with us from across the Northern Beaches along with representatives from Mosman and Ku Ring Gai Council. Thank you to Marina, Tanya and the wonderful team at Boomerang Bags – Kimbrik who hand made Boomerang Bags for each of our educators on the day. Boomerang Bags work to reduce the use of plastic bags by creating bags made from recycled material.

Our aim for the day was to connect educators to each other as well as to local providers who could support them on their sustainability journey; build confidence in them to deliver sustainability based activities in their centres; approach their service operations on a day to day basis as a whole staff in a sustainable manner; support them with a suite of curated resources underpinned by the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) available in our Education Hub Education Hub Archive – Kimbriki Resource Recovery Centre and share ideas and case studies of what is achievable in an early childhood centre setting.

The day began with an overview of the work we do at Kimbriki Eco House & Garden and a look at the bigger picture of where the education that occurs in early childhood settings sits amongst federal, state and local policy on sustainable actions. Resources on how to conduct an Early Childhood Centre Waste Audit Centre Recycling Systems Archives – Kimbriki Resource Recovery Centre provided the focus to discuss how our actions to model sustainable practices can have a lasting impact on our little people.

We love the practical nature of our work here at the EHG and always embed that in our professional development programs, so a fun Recycle Relay Game followed to embed good recycling practice in our centres and explore “grey” areas around recycling certain materials and waste products.

We were very fortunate to then have 2 members of staff from Northen Beaches Council Belrose Children’s Centre present a case study of their sustainability journey over the last 2-3 years that we have been part of. It was so insightful to hear of the critical reflection that occurred with the whole staff around the direction they wanted to take the centre and how the grant application processes they went through allowed them to focus on aims, purpose, timeframes and benefits of such a program. The funding that they worked so hard to win has allowed them to achieve many of their goals and create plans for future projects to include more Indigenous perspectives in their education framework. The centre now recycles all food waste through their compost and worm systems; separates all different kinds of waste for recycling; has reduced their morning and afternoon tea waste by 90 -95% and waste from lunch by 40-50%; involved their children in many of these sustainable practices, empowering them to be active citizens who care about their natural environment, and feel valued and trusted to contribute to big issues; and have connected in with the surrounding community with their WaterUps Community Herb Garden wicking bed. Of course it is always useful to examine the challenges and this case study session allowed a great deal of opportunity for many questions to be asked and answered. We are so grateful to Katie and Zuzi for sharing their journey with us.

Morning Tea Session followed with more opportunities to connect and collaborate over fresh fruit, biccies and a cup of Kimbriki Tea as well as a ramble through the garden to browse the many early childhood resources and activities on offer.

We were very fortunate to have the team from WaterUps join us from the Melbourne Garden Show for our hands-on sessions in the garden that straddled lunch. Eric Sturman from WaterUps led a practical and informative session around Wicking Gardens – the principles, the differing solutions on offer for any setting and the practicalities of these gardens that reduce watering needs by 60-80% – a no brainer for time poor educators! Angie Penn led a hands-on session on setting up composting and worm farm systems at early childhood centres, based on the ADAM principles and debunked lots of myths about what you can or can’t put into them, based on our two decades of experience running these systems Compost and Worm Systems Archives – Kimbriki Resource Recovery Centre. She also shared the many interactive activities we have developed to engage our children with our soil creator friends – the worms. Activity Resources Archives – Kimbriki Resource Recovery Centre This was complemented by the Senses Wander activities that Jake Bennett skilfully led participants on through the garden. This range of activities that allowed some deep diving as well as opportunities for questions and answers, seemed to hit the mark with participants who expressed that they liked “The variety of different learning – everything was relevant to early learning centres to establish sustainability programs”; “hands on experience & learning, simple yet effective ways to achieve sustainability”; “refreshing knowledge about compost & worms”; “inspiring ideas for nature play to take back to the centre”; “practical & realistic ideas with support and resources”.

More practical ideas to engage with our natural world were explored with Nicole Lewis from Planting Seeds who shared the B&B Highway program with participants. The program was designed to link to the NQF and EYLF standards to ensure children are connected with and contribute to their world, are confident, involved learners and effective communicators. The aim of the program is to regenerate and support threatened plants and pollinators through corridors in our urban environments enabling community collaboration and participation in citizen science even with our little people. This session really embodied David Attenborough’s quote and the importance of engaging our children in the natural world that they are part of:
“No one will protect what they don’t care about; and no one will care about what they have never experienced”

Our day culminated in a pair and share activity to identify a few Flexible, Uplifting & Numberless (F.U.N) goals, opportunities for grants and awards and of course our fabulous plethora of Lucky Door Prizes kindly donated by Tumbleweed and WaterUps.

The feedback has been amazing for our passionate, inspiring, approachable and expert staff who organised a comprehensive and diverse day of learning for our Early Childhood Educators, supported by our valuable and accessible resources on our Education Hub Education Hub Archive – Kimbriki Resource Recovery Centre. Our staff are energised by this feedback, so much so we have decided to host another Early Childhood Educators Waste & Sustainability Professional Development day on Friday 1st November 2024

In the meantime, we will leave you with this feedback from one of our participants. Feel free to come and check them out for yourself on your next visit to the Eco Garden (the gate at the side of the Eco House is always open for visitors when Kimbriki is open even when our staff might not be in attendance.)
“I thought I wouldn’t like the pit toilets but was pleasantly surprised! An amazing example of sustainability that really works and doesn’t smell!”

DON’T MISS – The next Early Childhood Professional Development Day – Friday 1st November 2024.

Rachel Kernaghan
Ecological Education Manager
Kimbriki Eco House & Garden