Early Learning Centre project wins international recognition

August 15 / 165

Children at the Early Learning Centre have been working on projects about environmental issues including learning about old-growth forest habitats, and the status of critically endangered Leadbeater’s possum.
Children at the Early Learning Centre have been working on projects about environmental issues including learning about old-growth forest habitats, and the status of critically endangered Leadbeater’s possum.

 

Children and staff at the University’s Early Learning Centre have been recognised for their efforts to protect the environment through an inquiry project, ‘Voices in the Forest’.  

The project began on a Saturday in March, when Early Learning Centre staff travelled to Toolangi Forest in Victoria’s Central Highlands. 

 

Under the guidance of environmental scientist Don Butcher, the group of enthusiastic lifelong learners gained new knowledge about the forest’s eco-systems, habitat, its contribution to Melbourne’s water supply (including its connection with the Yarra River), the current logging of old growth mountain ash forests and the Leadbeater’s possum’s impending extinction due to loss of its mountain ash habitat. 

 

It was particularly disturbing for the staff to learn that the majestic 150 year-old mountain ash that cover the hills of Toolangi are logged to produce paper that was used in the ELC office and for children’s drawings.

 

With this new knowledge the staff decided to engage the children in learning projects that have drawn attention to the importance of taking action to support the earth’s precious resources. Some of these have included: creating a sculptural forest of mountain ash, investigating the Leadbeater’s possum and its special features, exploring river systems and experimenting with water quality using specimens from the local Yarra River, and investigating the importance of forests for the health and vitality of eco-sytems.

 

If we allow children to shape their own small worlds during childhood, then they will grow up knowing the feeling they can participate in shaping the big world tomorrow.

- David Sobel

 

Children at the ELC have been working on projects around these environmental issues including learning about old-growth forest habitats, and the status of critically endangered Leadbeater’s possum. 

 

They have also been learning about the papermaking process, using ethical paper (http://www.ethicalpaper.com.au/), the importance of recycling and, more recently, how to give voice to these issues through art works that have travelled to the United States to be displayed as part of the International Interdependence Hexagon Project in Philadelphia www.hexagonproject.org

 

In this forum The Early Learning Centre was awarded the Most Overall Effective Interpretation at the Pre K- Kindergarten Level. The children and teachers were recognised for the:

 

…dynamic and creative exploration of the natural forest - utilizing the hexagon as lens, a frame, a habitat, a connecting metaphor for a collection of amazing forest creatures, textures, shapes, paintings, collages, interwoven understandings, messages and stories about things questioned, things learned and things still to be curious about .

 

- Beth Burkhauser, Chair International Interdependence Hexagon Project

 

In line with the philosophy of the ELC and the University, all learning has incorporated Indigenous Australian perspectives as overarching themes, drawing on the expertise and examples of sustainable living as practiced by the first Australians.  

 

Through the project the children have developed a deep connection and empathy for the environment, demonstrating their passion and power as active citizens who share responsibility for the healthy future of the planet.

 

As written in Dr Seuss’s well-known story The Lorax:

 

Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is 

going to get better, it’s not.

 

 

Story by Janice Deans on behalf of staff at the University of Melbourne Early Learning Centre

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