Learning environment: Preschoolers (from left) Alyssa Madirazza, Aleksander Puleo, Ethan Bradey and Gianna Muscat feed the chickens at Beehive Castle Hill Childcare. Photo: Fiona MorrisFor many toddlers, preschool is a time for active learning about communication, letters, counting and making a mess with finger painting.
But at the Castle Hill Beehive Childcare Centre in Sydney’s north-west, children are being taught about recycling, composting, water conservation and gardening.
They have also been getting their hands dirty, with the centre having its own worm farm and vegetable garden.
The centre’s director, Cara Miceli, said that despite the potentially complex subject matter, the children have been quite eager to learn.
“They really love it … it gives them a respect for the environment and hopefully that will come through when they reach primary school,” she said.
The Castle Hill program is run by Hornsby Council and is part of a scheme teaching environmental sustainability. The scheme is running in more than 30 preschools and childcare centres.
The NSW Early Childhood Environmental Education Network wants to see the program expanded to all early-learning centres across the state.
The group’s convener, Julie Gaul, said learning about the environment was as important in the early-learning curriculum as literacy and numeracy.
“It’s becoming more critical as we become more urbanised and becoming more isolated from nature,” she said.
However, the lessons about environmental sustainability aren’t just limited to the classroom. Ms Gaul said many children were bringing habits about the environment into the home as well and getting their parents on board.
“Early-childhood centres have really become a catalyst in the community,” she said.
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