Little Beacons Learning Centre is embedding sustainability at the heart of all decisions. Whether it’s encouraging children to move more, eat more plants or reduce more waste – the centre is helping to nurture happy, healthy children with an emphasis on all things green.
Little Beacons’ Pakenham centre joined the Healthy Early Childhood Services Achievement Program in 2012 to enhance the health and wellbeing initiatives for children, their families and staff. The Berwick centre joined in 2020, when it opened.
Little Beacons has already completed all six Healthy Early Childhood Services Achievement Program health areas. When the new Climate and Health Pathway began in 2020, Little Beacons was eager to be one of the first centres to take up the challenge. The centre already had a strong commitment to the environment and was eager to benchmark its sustainability achievements.
Increased active travel
Little Beacons is committed to promoting active physical activity for children of all ages. Children regularly walk across campus to explore other areas of the school including Indigenous Gardens, Early Explorer sites, kitchen gardens, the tennis courts and large oval areas. Even the youngest children who are not yet walking have a chance to get involved in activities such as feeding the ducks, visiting the library or viewing an art exhibition.
Little Beacons works with local health professionals, services and other organisations to deliver initiatives and promote healthy and active environments.
Cathi Orr, Little Beacons’ Individual Programs Co-ordinator said: “Having the guidance and support of the Achievement Program has given us a framework to build our programs to support our children and families. The children recently participated in Cancer Council’s Relay for Life. Classes walked together around the school oval and perimeter to fundraise. They also got involved in active games on the oval and ended with each class rolling down a big hill over and over again, just for fun!”.
Eat more plants
Little Beacons is committed to encouraging a healthy and sustainable approach to food for its children. The vegetables and herbs grown in the children’s vegetable garden are used in the meals provided, so children can learn about where their food comes from and even get involved in some meal prep. There are also 10 vegetable gardens and three Indigenous gardens across the College, growing organic produce for school use and for donation to charities.
“Children are involved in growing and harvesting foods to be used in the centre’s menu. They love cooking and really enjoy interacting with the food services and grounds staff. Children love to help with shelling peas or other types of food preparation, often having a little taste as they help,” Ms Orr said.
Conservation and sustainability is embedded into the curriculum. Children learn about how valuable water is as a resource and the changes to the water cycle due to climate change, as well as how to conserve and use water wisely to protect the planet.
Little Beacons water tanks help children understand the importance of conserving our natural resources. Children are encouraged to turn off taps after use, as just one example of sustainability.
The centre is also active in the local community, with a focus on protecting the critically endangered Growling Grass Frog and wetland environments. Parents participate in working bees in the wetlands area.
Connecting with nature
Little Beacons believes childhood is precious and that an important part of childhood is being outside in nature.
“Children are able to play in the rain, roll down grassy hills, balance along fallen logs, explore the wetlands, observe the habitat including the bird boxes, become involved in dramatic play, find insects, draw with sticks in the ground, climb trees and more,” Ms Orr said.
“Our rich outdoor area supports children’s connection with the environment and increases their awareness of the importance of the world we live in. It offers a range of experiences, from large gross motor movements to quiet passive play.”
Using the Achievement Program’s Climate and Health pathway, Little Beacons is seeing improvements across all six climate actions.
Ms Orr said “Children are developing an appreciation and learning to care for our natural environment.”
“They have enthusiastically embraced community projects, such as the Straws No More Campaign. This has also involved other family members and people in our community. Educators have become more aware of usage and wastage which is reflected in everyday practice. Families are using our bins to recycle batteries, clothes and electrical goods.”
“Little Beacons Learning Centre, Beaconhills College, will keep finding ways to improve our recycling and extend our service programs. Educating students, staff and families about the vital importance of sustainability is a key priority for the future of our planet.”