Teaching children to care about the environment is not only a way for us to create positive change for generations to come, but it is also a great way to raise a generation who are compassionate and caring. Giving children an understanding of, appreciation for, and responsibility to their environment is at the heart of the philosophy of Kindergartens Waikato and Early Education Waikato. In their 37 centres and home-based education services, respecting the environment forms a core part of the day to day activities of the children. CEO Maree Stewart says, “It manifests itself in how we care physically, socially and respectfully for everything around us, including each other, every day.”
All 37 services have worm farms, fruit-bearing citrus trees and ‘edible gardens’ where fresh vegetables are grown year-round. These are tended by the children, who eat the produce with whānau throughout the year, including Matariki celebrations.
Each Early Education Waikato Centre employs an in-house cook who incorporates the food grown on-site to create healthy, nutritious meals. Seeing, growing and eating food fresh from the garden helps children to foster better food choices, connects them with food and where it comes from, teaches them about seasons and Mother Nature while also giving them a sense of pride and achievement.
Children also enjoy visits from local beekeepers where they learn the importance of bees in the pollination process. Hamilton West Kindergarten has taken this a step further, installing an indoor/outdoor bee enclosure to view the bees at work and integrate them into their learning.
At Miropiko Kindergarten, on River Road, tamariki are the kaitiaki (guardians) of Miropiko Pa Reserve. The older children, in particular, visit regularly to learn and take care of the surrounds.
Bush Kindergarten is an important part of a regular activity programme at Newcastle Kindergarten in Ngaruawahia. Here tamariki have been using Pukemokemoke Bush Reserve for more than four years, exploring the ngahere and gifting a weta house. The hole for the weta house was dug and the tamariki lifted it into place—followed, of course, by a celebration of kai, before heading into the bush to explore further.
As the environment forms an integral part of the organisation’s learning programme, it was only natural for them to team up with Enviroschools.
Enviroschools is a nationwide programme where member schools and early childhood centres commit to a long-term sustainability journey. The goal is these journeys will create fertile ground for a range of learning and action.
Through this empowering experience, they will become life-long change-makers. The idea is based on the concept of ako, where all participants are simultaneously learners and teachers, and everybody learns from each other. Caring for our place and the whole planet becomes a living curriculum where skills and competencies are gained through experience and mahi within meaningful community settings.
Each location is unique, with its own ecology, history, culture and community—so Enviroschools looks different in every setting. The journey of connecting with the place and its people is designed and led by staff.
Raglan is a town committed to working toward zero waste, with Raglan Kindergarten focused on getting rid of single-use plastics. Ideas being implemented include litter-free lunchboxes—using wraps, reusable containers or lunchboxes with compartments; replacing plastic drinking cups with durable glass cups; and extending to using natural art materials—removing glitter, felt-tip pens and plastic beads, replacing them with sand, sawdust, coloured pencils, wooden beads and other natural resources.
The Enviroschools principles are woven into many aspects of day-to-day learning. At Pukete Kindergarten, tamariki discovered the name ‘Pukete’ comes from a type of kit or bag (kete) typically filled with hinau berries and submerged in fresh water streams as part of the preparation of the berries for fermenting and preservation. The area around Pukete Pa, at the northern end of Braithwaite Park, was renowned as a centre for the manufacture of such kits.
From that learning, the children have been busy making their own kete and have been learning a new mat time song called ‘Kai in the Kete’ which is a popular choice.
Rototuna Early Education Centre is one service that can spend time in a bush environment without leaving home, as it backs onto a gully which provides many opportunities for environmental discovery. Tamariki care for the gully by weeding, and a popular activity is visiting the chickens (owned by next-door Rototuna Primary School) that live there.
For tamariki who will deal with climate change, global warming and the effects of single-use plastics, the more they learn and respect their environment, the better leaders they will become in forming tomorrow’s environment.
Waikato Kindergarten Association
Waikato Kindergarten Association/Early Education Waikato is a not for profit trust which manages 29 kindergartens and 7 childcare centres along with Homebased Education throughout Hamilton, Cambridge, Ngaruawahia, Te Kowhai and Raglan.
With the belief high-quality early childhood education makes a significant difference in the way a child learns and develops throughout their life, Waikato Kindergartens and Early Education Waikato are staffed by passionate and qualified teachers.
Caring for children from 3 months to school age, with full day, morning, afternoon and school day sessions available.
Find out more at www.kindergarten.org.nz
5 ways to teach your children about the environment:
- Lead by example
- Start a garden
- Get outside and experience the joys of nature
- Feed their curiosity
- Teach care and respect for self and for others