At Kidzrus Nursery Group we have incorporated sustainability into our Quality Improvement Plan and appointed Eco Champions in each of our five settings to educate our colleagues, children and their families in protecting the environment. One of our passionate Eco Champions said “Knowing about the change in climate, pollution and the terrible effects it is having on the environment upsets me. Educating myself and becoming a supporter of protecting the environment is something that I am passionate about.” We are taking more than was naturally provided for us and working closely and proactively with our parents in teaching our children about their environment as respecting the world around them starts at home.
The Kidzrus community has started the big conversation and linked in with Greater Manchester Mayor, Andy Burnham’s Green Summit; doing what we can, together and individually. We are mindful that “this is now our planet, run by humankind for the humankind, there is nothing left for the rest of the living world” (Sir David Attenborough, A Life On Our Planet).
We are now taking active steps in becoming greener, and more aware by giving everyone involved an opportunity and platform to help others in the wider community to understand what is happening on our planet.
We discreetly educate our children about global citizenship. We give the children carefully considered and selected age-appropriate messages about the world in which we live that meet their needs and capture their imaginations and interests and incorporate such topics as transport, dinosaurs, the ocean and the world about us.
We have made a fantastic start in this journey and our Pre-School children have learned simple science about energy; the sun, food and water as well as energy that we needed to play and grow. We have signs around our settings to save energy by switching off lights and plug sockets and we talk with our children about saving energy – these conversations are repeated at home to extend learning and put this into practice in the home environment.
Transport is a favourite topic amongst our cohort so we actively compare how we travel to nursery and around our community incorporating everything from running, cycling, walking, bus and car and talking about the busy times for traffic.
As a Group, we are at war with waste. We have appointed Mini-Eco Warriors in each setting and they work alongside our elected Children’s Council to plan and deliver on issues that interest and affect them most. Our children know that we aim to minimise waste and promote reduce, reuse and recycle wherever possible. We have read ‘green books’ such as “Rubbish, Recycling and Protecting the Planet” alongside “Inside Recycling and Rubbish”, “The Life of a Plastic Bottle” and “The Life of a Cardboard Box” to introduce them to the reduction of waste.
We have teamed up with The Monton Village Association to take part in The Great British Spring Clean and equipped children with green caps, gloves and high viz jackets. Armed with pinchers and bin bags they and their families have taken part in supervised litter picks around the community during nursery sessions and in free time at weekends to clean up the local area. This has given them the added bonus of forming new friendships across all age groups and the opportunity as responsible young citizens to spread the message that dropping litter will not be tolerated.
They showed their displeasure by staging their own protest on Earth Day. Our children know about the different types of litter – what can and can’t be recycled. In June our Monton setting held a recycling week and World Environment Day activities and our children got creative with recycled objects. We plan on extending their learning experience with a visit to our local recycling centre.
Our efforts to recycle aren’t just limited to litter picks and bins for tin cans, plastics and paper. We have created a plastic free environment where children can use their own imagination and explore authentic resources, enabling them to probe and ask questions. They are not familiar with many things but the awe and wonder approach provides so many learning experiences using retro resources that may otherwise end up in landfill.
Our children enjoy learning about where foods come from – talking about the food that is home produced or imported as well as seasonal fruit and vegetables. They discuss their favourite foods including fruits and vegetables; their colour, shape, texture and taste as well as food that they like and dislike or make them happy or sad.
At each of our settings we have plotting beds where our green-fingered children grow a wide range of flowers, vegetables, herbs and spices from seed or cutting. Theywatch them grow and love monitoring this process each day, enjoy looking after and caring for a living thing. Once grown they take great pride in harvesting them,looking forward to another lovely home cooked meal. So far they have grown sunflowers, peas, mint, strawberries, runner beans, onions and cabbages. Many thanks to Christina, Community Champion at Morrisons, Swinton for her seed donations and spending time with us planting.
They have input in the planning our menus, are always excited to know what is for lunch and really enjoy the wide range of ‘round the world’, festival and celebration meals prepared by our cooks, including Helena Tomlinson at our Media City Nursery who is Nursery Cook finalist in the 19th National NMT Nursery Awards 2021. We would like to extend learning by taking our children on a visit to the local food market so that they can become familiar with and purchase some fresh produce that may be used as ingredients for a meal within their setting.
Helena has taken this one step further and introduced the “Grow with Helena Project”. We recently held our “Welly Wednesday” – our vegetable plots have an array of home grown fresh vegetables ripe for harvesting and she encouraged the children to help her. They put on their wellies and gloves and used garden tools to pick our crop of cabbages and onions, then decided together to have them for lunch the next day – Minced Beef and Onion Pie and Mashed Potatoes with cabbage and gravy. This helped them to understand the journey of food from the soil to the plate.
They also helped Helena to prepare the vegetable beds for planting by clearing out the waste and adding compost to the soil. This was from food waste that we collected and left to rot down. They then peeled garlic bulbs, removed the husks and measured where each individual clove should be placed, covering it in soil and watering it. After all that hard work the children, Helena and our Practitioners relaxed around the fire pit and enjoyed home made biscuits, hot chocolate and toasted their own marsh mallows.
Helena has produced an shared a ‘step by step’ guide with parents so that they have the opportunity to participate and grow their own fruit, vegetables, herbs and spices. It’s not a barrier that they don’t have a garden; perhaps they have a small courtyard or patio where they can grow in containers. If they don’t have any outside areas they can grow in flowerpots and other containers on windowsills, balconies, under skylights and so on. This makes growing produce possible almost anywhere, including in urban and inner city high-rise flats.
Outdoor play, learning and investigation are vital for progression. The children are weather aware as we teach them about different weather, seasons and how and why the changes affect us. We help them to understand that the world is full of many wonderful things – animals, interesting plants and people. They learn about British plants, trees, wildlife and animals with a direct link to Understanding the World. We have built Hedgehog Houses and Bug Hotels and they regularly go on hunts to locate different species of animals, birds and insects throughout the year as and when they migrate. They have made bird feeders from empty water bottles with wooden spoons and sturdy sticks inserted for the birds to rest on whilst feeding and to attract birds to our outdoor area. This teaches the children about different species of birds and how to look after them and we have extended this as, with their families they participated in the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch. We have celebrated World Ocean Day to raise awareness of how to keep our oceans clean and educate our children about water-based species and the impact of plastics and waste in their habitat.
Our children go on regular nature walks listening to and spotting the different wildlife and also visit our Swinton setting; a Forest School where we keep chickens and rabbits and our Pre-School children learn predominantly outdoors according to the Forest School ethos. They look after the animals and clean out their coops then collect the eggs that have been laid. What better way to start the day with your friends than to enjoy eggs from your very own chickens on toast! Whilst on these walks our children collect natural items for discussion and investigation and any leaves and stones etc. are also used in Expressive Art and Design. Similarly, we make musical instruments using old pots and plastic bottles using ingredients such as rice or pasta. We make our own paint, paintbrushes with leaves and play dough with some lavender or oils; potions and perfume.
Our children are our future. We must teach them well and let them lead the way with a sense of pride. Teaching children about sustainability and climate change now may encourage them to insert this knowledge in their future and help the planet thrive and survive.