Going Green Exhibition
- Energy and Climate
- Sustainable Consumption
- The End - well no, not really...
Going, Going, Gone Green – an Exhibition
As educators, we have the responsibility as well as the opportunity to create a better world by teaching children about sustainability, equality, diversity and humanity. Sustainability education enables us to promote a sense of responsibility, show respect for the natural environment, be active participants and awaken children’s curiosity. Children, after all, are the custodians for future generations. Maria Montessori understood this almost a century ago, when she observed, “Within the child lies the fate of the future”.
In March 2019, the Kinderhaus made the decision to Go Green. We decided to undertake a year-long project to study the various aspects. Our six groups each focused on one specific area of sustainability. These areas were nutrition, climate and energy, water, soil, sustainable consumption and biodiversity. These topics are of course all inter-connected and in their learning, the children ventured into the each other’s areas. As part of this journey, we joined the Plastic-free Nursery Campaign organised by SAS (Surfers against Sewage) in October 2019. Originally, we had planned a physical exhibition for July 2020 to show off to the outside world all we have learned during this journey. Sadly, Covid-19 happened and thus this virtual exhibition was created.
This exhibition is about the work and learning of the staff and children of the DSL Kinderhaus during their journey to becoming Sustainability Citizens of the Future.
Soil is the habitat of numerous living things, such as microorganisms, bacteria, fungi, plants and animals. It provides nutrition to plants and anchors the roots of trees firmly anchored. It provides a home and safety to animals, such as rabbits and moles. Furthermore, it fulfils indispensable functions in terms of drinking water supply and food production.
Children are often fascinated by earth and can spend hours digging in the garden, discovering worms, bugs and roots.
Soil, dirt, mud, earth… generally this is all the sort of stuff that we are supposed to wipe off our feet, or wash off our hands, before entering the house, sitting down to eat, or going to bed. But soil is a precious thing – without it we wouldn’t be able to grow crops and sustain life. Depending on where you are on the planet, it can take between 100 and 1,000 years for just one centimetre of soil to build up. Yet it can be washed or blown away in an instant.
The children closely examined soil and looked at its composition and the different layers (humus, topsoil, subsoil, etc); they discussed its purpose, experimented with soil, grew flowers and cress, created a wormery and even painted with soil.
Three quarters of our earth is covered with water, therefore also known as the blue planet. Access to clean drinking water is crucially important for people. Simply put - no water, no life! In addition to the careful handling of this element, water as a habitat offers many opportunities to discover the special flora and fauna in it. Most of us were deeply affected by David Attenborough´s documentary Blue Planet and his message about the pollution within it. Water also lends itself for many simple scientific experiments.
The children learned about the different uses of water, visited the riverside, learned about the oceans and plastic pollution and made many experiments, including that different amounts of water produce different sounds, weight in water, i.e. what sinks or swims, how water affects flowers and created artwork.
Learning About the Water Cycle
Education is an essential element of the global response to climate change. It helps people understand and address the impact of global warming, increases “climate literacy” among young people, encourages changes in their attitudes and behaviour, and helps them adapt to climate change related trends.
What role does the sun play? How is the weather going to be today? Where do animals and plants get their energy from? The topic of climate can be experienced in a variety of ways in a Kindergarten and the economical use of energy can be taught to children even at an early age.
The children have been learning about weather, wind and solar energy; they questioned where rain comes from, and when does it become hale or snow and learned that plants require weather to grow. They have been monitoring daily temperatures, recording their findings and making comparisons between months in relation to monthly rainfall and produced artwork. In addition, children were selected to be “light monitors” responsible for switching off the light every time the children left the classroom.
With current food production driving climate change, biodiversity loss, pollution and unsustainable land and water use, learning about nutrition is key when talking to children about sustainability.
“Sustainable diets are those diets with low environmental impacts that contribute to food and nutrition and to healthy life for present and future generations. Sustainable diets are protective and respectful of biodiversity and ecosystems, culturally acceptable, accessible, economically fair and affordable, nutritionally adequate, safe and healthy, while optimizing natural and human resources” (FAO)
Where does all our food come from? With this question, you are right in the middle of the exciting topic of nutrition and sustainable development and the discussion of how far our food has to travel to reach our plate!
While looking at the topic of nutrition, the children thought about making healthy food choices, they grew vegetables, they tasted and smelled, they cooked and baked, and above all enjoyed eating together.
“Eating a well-balanced diet, with adequate nutrients and appropriate calories, is a fundamental requirement for continued health. An appropriate diet contributes to healthy development, healthy ageing and greater resilience against disease”. (BBSRC)
The preservation of biological diversity is essential for human survival. All species are interconnected and depend on one another. Forests provide homes for animals. Animals eat plants. The plants need healthy soil to grow. Fungi help decompose organisms to fertilize the soil. Bees and other insects carry pollen from one plant to another, which enables the plants to reproduce. With less biodiversity, these connections weaken and sometimes break, harming all the species in the ecosystem…
“Biodiversity is important to people in many ways. Plants, for instance, help humans by giving off oxygen. They also provide food, shade, construction material, medicines, and fibre for clothing and paper. The root system of plants helps prevent flooding. Plants, fungi, and animals such as worms keep soil fertile and water clean. As biodiversity decreases, these systems break down” (National Geographic).
The extent to which the different species depend on each other makes dealing with the topic of biodiversity multifaceted and exciting. Children have a natural curiosity about the diversity of animals, bugs and plants.
Our children went on a bug hunt recording their findings, they watched, observed, painted and created plants and mini-beasts, learning about the interconnection and the importance each tiny creature plays in keeping the environment healthy.
We are facing an environmental catastrophe, so learning how to care for our environment is an essential life skill, which must start from a very young age!
Encouraging children to recycle and to find alternatives to single use plastics is a way of teaching them about sustainability. Questions about what happens to the things we no longer need and whether there is waste in nature opens up a wide range of options for considering how we deal with things in everyday life. What happens to the food, clothing or toys we no longer need? Do we need that many things? What can we substitute or do without? Could we repair, swap, borrow or pass things on? These are all interesting questions when thinking about a more sustainable lifestyle.
Our children learned to identify plastics and other materials; we discussed alternatives to single use plastics and banned some (plastic bags, glitter, google eyes, etc); we created a “trash mob” and picked up litter in the surrounding meadows and the riverside; we made our own toys and indulged in junk modelling; we separated our rubbish and fed the school`s compost bin!
...this is merely the beginning
We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children. (Native American Proverb)
As adults, whether parents or educators, we have the responsibility to make sustainable education a part of everyday life, and not turn it into a one-off, on trend project. To be successful, sustainability must be a lifelong and conscious choice; it requires commitment and time from all of us. It is so much easier to buy a box of glue sticks rather than make our own or to buy a 5 pence plastic bag or single use water bottle than remembering to take one along when we leave the house. However, unless we embed these practices in everyday life, change is not possible. We need to remember, that it is us – the adults in this world - who teach children to want an abundance ot toys. Children do not need plastic glitter to enjoy Christmas! Or balloons to celebrate a birthday. They do not require a roomful of toys or the free bit of plastic junk supplied by children´s magazines. This is learned behaviour. All this teaches them is that you can never have enough. The children in our Kindergarten have most fun when they can create something out of an empty cardboard box, plant seeds, cook or bake with us, or can be creative with recyclables. Children do not require a lot of “stuff” to be happy and the best thing you can give your child is to let them be actively involved in your life and to spend quality time together.
Children have a huge capacity and a natural curiosity to learn about the world around them. The best way to teach children to want to be sustainable is to teach them a love of nature and the environment. It is within all of us to want to take care of the things we love. Children are no different – if we model them respect for nature, they will want to take care of the environment! During the journey we have taken with the children of the Kinderhaus, we educators have also learned a lot about the environment, sustainability and about ourselves. Most of all it has taught us that we must continue on this journey. This is not the end, it is only the beginning! I do hope that all parents will join us on this continuing journey!