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Sustainability & The Natural World - Educational Experience

Sustainability: Going beyond worm farms and the 3 R’s.

Sustainability: Going beyond worm farms and the 3 R’s.
Sustainability & The Natural World - Educational Experience


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.

Biophilic Design

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 (, 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.

References: (2008). The National Quality Standard. [online] Available at: [Accessed 20 May 2015].

Scheer, D. (2019). What is biophilic design in architecture? | Retrieved from

National Recycling Week - Educational Experience

Sustainability & The Natural World - Educational Experience

We know that recycling helps the environment by reducing pollution and decreasing the amount of landfill, but additionally, recycling can teach children important lifelong lessons. If we use both intentional teaching strategies and play based learning experiences, to immerse children in recycling when they are young, they will develop positive habits that become fluid throughout the home, community and later into the workplace.

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Something old, Something new, Something borrowed

Sustainability & The Natural World - Educational Experience

Resources. Every Early childhood Service has piles of resource catalogues in their staff room. There are always the new shiny thing on offer on Pinterest, and Facebook groups are full of ideas being shared – we can do that, we should get that. It’s easy to get carried away purchasing things that are unnecessary and add to the amount of “stuff” in our storerooms.

However, if we are really serious about our role in the sustainability of our world, then we should seriously think about our planet’s finite resources and be very considerate with our actions.

Explore & Develop Annandale subscribes to the sustainable principal of Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.

The best way to be more sustainable and to make an impact on the use of our planet’s resources is to “Reduce” what we purchase. This means thinking about whether we need the resource. Are we really going to use it? Can we get the same learning outcome by using a resource we already have?

When we decide we need a resource the first thought is does this resource already exist and can we obtain it?  Second Hand sellers have become the best friend of many Services, places like Reverse Garbage, op shops like the Salvos Shops or Vinnies, ebay and Gumtree. By investing a bit of time, you can find most things you need. … Examples of this are home corner crockery, wooden bowls and baskets, there are plenty of these in Vinnies.

Resourcing within the community is also a great way for families to invest in the Program, many families have items that when collected can be useful, home corner items, recycling items for art, such as milk bottle tops – these are a great used in maths activities, loose parts and in art.

We have recently commenced a project of making Boomerang Bags – using material donated by members of our community. The bags will be distributed within our community shops for consumers to use as an alternative to plastic bags.

Having said all that, when we purchase new resources we ensure the items have play affordability, are open-ended, can be used by a variety of age groups and are ethically sourced.

We have many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander resources in our Service. From music, tablecloths, dolls, literature and art, it is embedded throughout our space. When purchasing a resources we assess the artist and reseller to ensure they are ethical.

Last year we worked with Educational Experience testing their Boolarng range of resources which have been developed with communities across Australia. Our babies particularly engaged with the My Country Backdrop by Worimi Country artist Kristy Anderson. We used the backdrop on the floor of our babies playspace, they crawled around on it with under the sea projections on the walls.

We have the Marrung Capes to our dress ups in our preschool room. It has been particularly interesting to see how children use these in different ways, around their shoulders, their waist or their heads. The animals on the capes develop their own superpowers in superhero play and become a topic of conversation, adding to the knowledge of Australian animals.

As art is always a core of our program we have a continuous need for resources to support children’s engagement. Again, this is an opportunity to be mindful of purchasing resources that allow children to be creative and express their emotions. To not get pulled into purchasing something that leads the child into creating a specific tangible output. 

We regularly forage for natural materials on our excursions, however we purchase good quality implements such as pencils, paints, brushes, clay tools are necessary. Choosing tools made from wood or bamboo are more sustainable than those made from plastic. Often when purchasing cheaper products, the investment is wasted when the pencil doesn’t last, or the colour isn’t bold enough and doesn’t engage the child in the experience.

When we respect the child and their engagement with the resource we invest in their experience with the resource.


By Su Garrett - Explore & Develop Annandale

Autism and World Earth Day

Sustainability & The Natural World - Educational Experience Inclusion - Educational Experience

Structured, active play is often the best way to build the confidence of a child with Autism. With World Earth Day being celebrated on April 22, it is the perfect chance to create authentic learning experiences for your child.

Finding meaningful engaging activities for children with Autism can be stressful and rewarding; in this article, we provide some tips for parents and educators embracing World Earth Day.

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