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Learning About Sustainability in Early Years

by Dubai Forum
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One of Dubai’s leading British nurseries for children aged between six months and four years, Ladybird Nursery follows the UK’s Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) curriculum in a Montessori setting. Moreover, as well as ensuring that youngsters enjoy a warm, friendly and nurturing environment in which they can play, learn, have fun and evolve, it is also committed to sustainability and environmental awareness. Education UAE spoke to Monica Valrani, Montesorri Directress and CEO, to discover how the nursery goes about teaching sustainability to young children.

Education UAE: How can knowledge of sustainability be implemented from a young age for early learners?

Monica: Spending time in nature is one of the best ways to implement knowledge. Going for nature walks allows children to appreciate the natural beauty around us and foster a love for our environment. Talk to them about our trees, flowers, insects, and animals and how we protect and care for living creatures. Having plants and caring for them also promotes love and the appreciation of nature. 

It is also important to expose children to collecting rubbish others have left behind on a beach walk and explain the importance of polluting our environment and the sea. 

Education UAE: How do children react to this broader forward-thinking approach?

Monica: Sustainability is an integral part of our curriculum. From the time children enter our nursery, they are exposed to it daily and it becomes part of their routine. Children are inquisitive and absorb information like sponges. They are eager to learn and have a great sense of accomplishment when they are given responsibility and have achieved their goal.


Spending time in nature is one of the best ways to implement knowledge


Education UAE: Do you teach youngsters how they can be more sustainable at home? How can parents support their children?

Monica: Children are taught to be aware of their environment even at home and we do encourage sustainability at home. For example, they are aware of conserving electricity and water by practising activities such as switching off lights when they are not in use and turning off the tap in between brushing their teeth. 

Parents can include children in daily chores such as taking them to the supermarket and allowing them to pack the shopping in reusable bags. In addition, parents should explain the harmful effects of plastic, introduce recycling at home, and involve children in collecting and sorting paper waste, plastic and glass. 

Parents can get children in their garden or even indoors to experience growing plants, vegetables and fruits. Children involved in this process will also develop a love for nature and learn healthy eating habits.


Parents can get children in their garden or even indoors to experience growing plants, vegetables and fruits


Education UAE: How does Ladybird Nursery implement these values and approach the subject? Can you give examples?

Monica: Ladybird is the first LEED Gold certified nursery in the MENA region and sustainability is central to our curriculum and facilities. The construction of our facilities is done to promote indoor air quality, conserve energy and ensure our buildings remain healthy.  Sustainability concepts are taught in the curriculum through:

  • Junk modelling
  • Making our own resources 
  • Recycling 
  • Planting 
  • Organic garden, plants watered through recycled water 
  • Explaining how our solar panelswork
  • Observing lighting sensors
  • Using water filters to discourage the use of plastic bottles.

Education UAE: There are facilities at Ladybird such as the sensory and organic garden – how important is it to have hands-on learning when it comes to sustainability and the environment?

Monica: Hands-on environmental education allows children to become engaged and creates respect and love for our natural environment. For example, children grow fruits and vegetables in our garden and learn how to care for them. They learn about life cycles and it also promotes healthy eating. 


Hands-on environmental education allows children to become engaged and creates respect and love for our natural environment


Education UAE: Teachers’ expertise in sustainability will help to raise the next generation of responsible global citizens – is knowledge of this subject an important aspect of Ladybird’s recruitment policy?

Monica: All management and teachers are responsible for ensuring our strong values surrounding the importance of sustainability are implemented. During induction, these are highlighted and discussions surrounding the topic are frequent during staff meetings with ideas and resources shared. In addition, teachers make a lot of their own resources using recycled materials and regularly discuss ways of conserving energy with the children. 

Our children are asked frequently whether the lights and air conditioning are needed in the classroom and take a collective decision on whether they need to be switched on. As part of our LEEDGold facility, we have sensors where the air conditioning automatically switches off, if windows are opened. We also have solar panels on our roof and teachers talk to children about their application and features. Teachers also incorporate junk modelling, recycling and water conservation in our curriculum plans. 


We are encouraging our parent community to be more engaged in sustainability and green initiatives


Education UAE: Montessori has a long history of teaching children about the natural world and it has, in many ways, been ahead of the curve for about 125 years! Has this given Ladybird Nursery an advantage in this increasingly vital area of learning and how do you see the nursery evolving over the next five years?

Monica: The Montessori aspect of the curriculum teaches students to read, write and become lifelong learners who respect themselves, others and the environment. The principles are holistic, and for our children, it is a way of living that is embedded in the approach. 

Ladybird Nursery will continue to highlight and practise sustainability daily. In addition, we are encouraging our parent community to be more engaged in sustainability and green initiatives. Our teachers will continue with internal training and participate in further professional development courses to better integrate sustainability into our curriculum. 

With the opening of our second and world’s largest LEED Gold campus in Al Barsha this year, Ladybird Nursery will continue to create awareness amongst our future generation. We promise to be a change-maker in reducing the carbon footprint and protecting our environment. 

Find out more, visit ladybirdnursery.ae

DF

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