Facilities & Equipment

Environmental Awareness in Your Early Years Setting

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Environmental Awareness in Your Early Years Setting

It’s becoming increasingly important for us all to be more environmentally aware, as most experts agree that we are approaching a climate crisis. It’s more vital than ever, then, for us to teach children about sustainability from an early age. In this article – part one of two – we’ll examine how to approach environmental awareness education in your nursery; the second article will set out some ideas for environmental awareness activities.

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There are two key elements to consider when planning environmental awareness activities in preschool settings:

  1. Embedding good practice into nursery life
  2. Keeping the message simple and positive


Good Environmental Practice

You probably already have an environmental policy in place for your nursery, but it’s worth revisiting it regularly to check that it’s up to date, and to see whether there is anything more that could be added, or whether you could set more ambitious targets.

From an educational point of view, one of the key purposes of an environmental policy is to embed good practice into daily nursery life, so that you can model this for the children. Direct, consistent exposure to sustainable concepts in this way will help to build environmental understanding from a very early age.

The kinds of issues that should be addressed in your environmental policy include the following:

Energy – consider where your energy comes from (is your supplier ‘green’? If not, could you switch? Could you install some solar panels?), how much energy you use, and in what ways you could be more energy efficient (eg switching off lights, running washes at lower temperatures).

Water – think about how you can reduce water use in your nursery, but also how this can be communicated to everyone, including the children (eg put up picture posters by the sinks reminding them to turn off taps).

Recycling – evaluate your nursery’s recycling system and make sure that you are recycling (or reusing) everything that you possibly can, and in the most effective way. Does everyone understand the system, and could the children be more involved?

Kids learning how to recycle trash

Buying – make a list of all your regular supplies, and assess what packaging it comes in. Could you do anything to reduce the packaging, eg buy from a different source, or get refills? When sourcing new toys, make sure that you buy good quality ones that will last; consider buying second hand where appropriate. Make your own craft supplies (eg play dough) where possible.

Food – try to incorporate local, seasonal produce into your menu wherever possible. Could you join a veg box scheme, or make links with a local farm? Better still, could you grow any of your own food? You might also consider reducing the consumption of animal products in the nursery.

environmental awareness

Transport – how do staff travel to the nursery, and is it possible to make this greener (eg by encouraging car-sharing or providing secure bike racks and showers)? Is there anything you can do to make it easier for parents to walk/cycle to the nursery instead of driving (eg provide more space for leaving buggies or start a walking bus)?

Simple and Positive Message

Concepts such as climate change and sustainability can be tricky to explain to young children, so you need to keep things as simple as possible. You should also take care not to alarm the children with visions of impending doom.

Try sticking to a few straightforward, positive messages such as these:

  • Everything we do has an effect on our environment
  • Humans should respect and care for the world we live in
  • We don’t have limitless resources so we need to reduce, reuse, recycle
  • We can all take small steps that together make a difference

In order to engage the children in environmental awareness education – and keep them engaged – it’s also important to make sure that teaching opportunities are fun for them to participate in. Tap into the kinds of activities that they are naturally drawn to (eg sorting, experimenting, exploring, getting messy), as well as their inherent, developing interest in the world around them.

A Complete Guide to Outdoor Learning and Play – Get it Now

complete guide to outdoor learning play

We hope you have found this article useful, why not have a look at some of our other articles related to this topic:


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