Educators are constantly reviewing the concept of sustainability and how services can embed this important social and environmental topic into everyday practice. There are some further simple strategies that don’t just include worm farms or the 3 R’s to consider in order to create a more sustainable environment.
The abundance of information on the topic of sustainability aimed at educators can be overwhelming and easy to ignore. It seems like we are inundated with an article, new piece of research or framework link showing us how, why and when sustainability “can be done”. Very quickly this can lead us down the path of thinking “We are recycling, we have a worm farm, we have plastic free lunch boxes, we are doing our part, aren’t we?”.
But what if there was more you could do in your service to increase your children’s knowledge and respect for the environment? What if you could be a thought leader for both your children and the sector as a whole?
Join us as we explore a new dimension to sustainability in the early years.
What does your environment say about you?
It is no ground-breaking news that both outdoor and indoor spaces in early childhood centres across Australia have undergone major changes over the past decade. Many centres have opted to get rid of the vast majority of plastic resources, actively engage children in the 3 R's and introduce or encourage wildlife into their settings. These progressive steps are certainly a great start to addressing some of the obvious signs and symptoms of a sector that has had a historical dependence on synthetics and consumables. But where to next?
As educators, we must recognise the importance of building a child’s emotional attachment to nature all the while enhancing their educational outcomes in collaboration with nature. We can do this through the principles of biophilic design.
Biophilic design brings together the idea of biophilia, that is, the innate human need to connect with nature, and the process of designing interiors, exteriors and architecture (Scheer, 2019).
Does your service floor plan, interior and exterior design, and building reflect biophilic design principles? Here are a few questions to help guide your answer:
- How much natural light do we have access to? And when and how do we utilise it?
- Do we have access to views of nature? If so, do we make these accessible to children and regular reflect upon them, observing natural and environmental phenomenon?
- Are our fixtures made of natural materials and if so, are they recognisable to the children?
- If any, what role does live vegetation or native flora and fauna play in your environment both indoor and out?
- Are there ways in which we can immediately and positively impact the environment as a whole?
This by no means is the all-encompassing list of questions to decide if you have incorporated biophilic design into your service design, it is rather a differing view point to the traditional way of thinking about sustainability and can be used as a great starting point.
Dynamic Learning Environments
Under Quality Area 3, Element 2.2 of the National Quality Standard, we are guided to ensure resources, materials and equipment allow for multiple uses, are sufficient in number, and enable every child to engage in play-based learning (acecqa.gov.au, 2008) – the perfect start to a Dynamic Learning Environment.
Outdoor spaces are a feature of Australian learning environments as they offer a multitude of sustainable learning opportunities that are unable to be replicated indoors. In order to develop a dynamic outdoor learning, the setting must be responsive and transformative to the needs of the children and nature.
The developmental benefits of open-ended resources and spaces for children are clear and abundant, however there are also vast and varied financial benefits for the service.
Innovative use of spaces and smart choices in resources lead to positive outcomes across environments as illustrated below:
Keep an eye out for more information in the latest copy of engage: your inspiration publication.
Acecqa.gov.au. (2008). The National Quality Standard. [online] Available at: http://www.acecqa.gov.au/national-quality-framework/the-national-quality-standard [Accessed 20 May 2015].
Scheer, D. (2019). What is biophilic design in architecture? | EarthTalk.org. Retrieved from https://earthtalk.org/biophilic-design-architecture/
When children are supported by and feel a sense of belonging in their environment – an environment where their opinions, feelings and ideas are respected they are able to trust others, are empowered to be themselves and are better equipped to realise their learning and development potential.