Eariler this year, Raumati South Kindergarten children buried various forms of lunch box waste, uncovering them a month later and then again after three months. It was all in the name of deepening the children’s understanding of waste decomposition – part of educating not just children, but the wider community.
Visionary, sustained, embedded, empowered, instinctive and integrated; these are some of the words used to describe the sustainability journey that has taken place at Raumati South Kindergarten over the last ten years. In early April, the kindergarten celebrated becoming a Green-Gold Enviroschool, (the highest level), joining Little Earth Montessori Preschool as a role model of sustainability on the Kāpiti Coast.
A large group including past and present parents and teachers gathered to share their experiences of what has been achieved since the kindergarten became an Enviroschool in 2005.
The journey has included:
• Gardening and healthy eating (in 2013 the kindergarten produced a stunning community cookbook with healthy eating recipes contributed by families).
• A holistic approach to experiencing the cycle of life from seed to table, including seed collecting & sharing self-sufficiency practices.
• Waste management practices include litterless lunches, composting, reducing, repurposing, recycling.
• Developing understandings of Manaakitanga, Kotahitanga & Kaitiakitanga in everyday practices.
• Being one of three Early Childhood Centres to participate in a collaborative research project with Te Papa scientists, culminating in a soon to be launched resource - “A Bug’s Life - discovering and learning about invertebrates in our gardens at kindergarten and at home”.
• Becoming a Bronze Enviroschool in 2007 and Silver in 2008.
The group gathered for a pōwhiri before being shown around the kindergarten environment with the children (empowering students being one of the Enviroschool principles.) At the end of the regular kindergarten session the group shared kai in the garden and had the opportunity to discuss with parents and whānau their experiences and memories of sustainability related things that have been happening at Raumati South Kindergarten over the years.
The conversations were flowing with stories of how kindergarten life has influenced families at home. On a graffiti board where people were invited to write feedback about the kindy's progress, parents mentioned how their practices at home have changes as a result of what they have learnt through the kindergarten – from not wasting water, to avoiding lunchbox waste, planting gardens and saving seeds.
Children with support from teachers led a tour around the Kindy sharing their sustainability practices such as the Comfrey Tea Brew.
“We are always talking about not wasting water, that it’s precious and how healthy food makes our bodies strong. All of these things have been learnt at kindy and have been shared at home.”
“We changed the way we pack lunches and what we put in. No wrapped items, homemade yoghurt in re-useable cartons, homemade bread, items of fruit and veges from the garden. The kindy helped us by showing us a more sustainable way of feeding ourselves, helping the environment at the same time.”
“We started a pot plant garden because of the enthusiasm my 4 year old showed towards gardening that she has learnt through her kindy environment.”
“We always make sure we never use plastic wrap now. I’ve learnt from and enjoyed the gardening group that began at kindy. We now grow lots of things from seeds we save.”
What stands out about Raumati South Kindergarten is the extent to which it is helping build a sustainable community outside as well as inside the kindergarten grounds. For instance, receiving children from Raumati South Kindergarten played a large part in Raumati South School’s decision to become part of the Enviroschools programme in 2009, enabling children to continue to explore the interest in the environment they had developed at kindergarten. And a group of parents have formed a weekly gardening group:
“For 2 years now we have met weekly in each other’s gardens to work, help each other, share knowledge, seeds, produce & plants.”
“ I love how Raumati South Kindergarten encourages looking after the land and world we live in through practices and teachings at kindy. Making it fun and exciting for the kids helps too! The Kindy teachers are awesome at this!"
Children & teachers explain their waste experiment in progress - that of burying various waste products to investigate their decomposition rates.