Photo credit: © Little Sprouts Program
The Little Sprouts program provides specialised support for early childhood services in Merri-bek, and in other parts of Melbourne, to embed sustainability and environmental education into childcare centre practices in a fun and engaging way. The program is based on a behaviour-change approach to sustainability leading to positive outcomes not only for the environment, but also long-term social, cultural and economic benefits for the centre and community.
Increasing Indigenous cultural heritage awareness and enhancing biodiversity
In 2018-19, Little Sprouts partnered with Lake Park Kindergarten in Coburg North to protect and enhance biodiversity of the centre’s environment and promote public awareness and understanding of Indigenous cultural heritage in the Merri Creek catchment. The project was supported by a Merri-bek City Council community grant and run with other local partners including Edible Eden Design.
The project resulted in new native and Indigenous plants added to the playground and carpark, interpretive educational signage for plants in the playground, Wurundjeri cultural activities, Acknowledgement of Country sign developed by children and educators and a professional development session for other Merri-bek early childhood educators.
Identifying waste in order to reduce it
Little Sprouts also conducted waste audits in 2017 and 2018 at Lake Park Kindergarten and provided recommendations for ways to reduce their waste. Children at the centre have taken part in worm farm and composting incursions and staff have received guidance on compost and worm farm maintenance.
The audits identified several points where the Kindergarten could reduce its waste including looking at reusable alternatives, reducing recycling contamination and identifying collection points for common items like printer cartridges and soft plastics.
Growing future environmental leaders
Carolyn Luder from Little Sprouts says “early childhood services play an important role in helping children develop an understanding and respect for the natural environment. Children are natural scientists with a curiosity for the world around them. Engaging with children in sustainable practices and with adults in sustainable behaviours helps children to develop connections, care and appreciation for the natural environment, and realise they play a role in protecting it.”
For childcare services wanting to improve their sustainability practices, Carolyn’s advice is to:
“focus on only one or two projects at a time, making sure the project is embedded properly before adding more sustainability projects…and adjust your approach as new information arises.”
How can I find out more?
The Little Sprouts Program website provides more information on what support the organisation can provide to local early childhood centres.
Merri-bek City Council also has a range of resources for educators keen to improve the sustainability of their centres. Visit our Community Action page for more information.