The Melbourne Girls Grammar Early Learning Centre (ELC) has been rated as Exceeding National Quality Standards under the National Quality Framework (NQF). The ELC’s “physical environment” was identified as one of the key quality areas in which the ELC is exceeding.
In addition to an inviting and challenging adventure playground, the ELC’s kinder girls have access to a myriad of outdoor areas designed to stretch their minds and bodies! A thriving vegetable garden, a mini bamboo forest and gentle cascades of water from a trickling stream all combine to create dynamic outdoor spaces 3 year old kindergarten and 4 year old kindergarten girls love to explore.
ELC Lead Educator Nicole Stynes chairs the Centre’s Sustainability Committee and encourages staff and students to share her passion for the environment. “When preschool children look deeply at the detail in the natural world, they begin to form awe and wonder that helps build a deeper connection to their environment,” she says. “Once they form that connection and attachment, they begin to want to protect it.”
For the 4 year old kindergarten girls at the ELC, that connection began back in Term 1, thanks to a visit from City of Melbourne Ranger John Messfeldt. Small insects were the focus of his presentation but a much bigger lesson was being shared. “The girls gained an understanding of why insects are so important in our everyday lives,” Messfeldt says. “We discussed the ways in which they pollinate plants and their role as a major food source for other animals such as birds, lizards, frogs, fish, mammals and some carnivorous plants – which is why we must help preserve and encourage insects and bugs in our backyard gardens.”
“Having the opportunity to teach our younger generations about the importance of habitats and living ecosystems is what it’s all about.” Messfeldt enthuses. “After all, this is what will bring us one step closer to a more sustainable future!”
Messfeldt is set to return to the ELC later this term and the girls’ enthusiasm for recycling will, no doubt, leave him equally buoyed. According to Nicole, the girls have embraced a new thoughtful waste program. “We provide separate recycling and composting bins and every day we encourage the girls to think carefully about where they discard their food scraps at lunchtime,” she says.
Once a week, the 4 year old kindergarten girls make the most of their South Yarra address, with a visit to the Royal Botanic Gardens — located just footsteps from the ELC. Nicole describes the visits as “joyous”. “When we reach the large, grassed areas, the girls squeal and run and, to me, that’s what childhood is all about,” Nicole says.
“After their big run, the girls settle and begin to explore and observe in detail the garden’s seasonal changes.” According to Nicole, the girls are always curious about their discoveries, leading to questions and conversations that cover wide-ranging topics from camouflage and lifecycles, through to water purification and climate change. “These topics can always be discussed back in the learning studios with intentional teaching practices but the experience and learning is so much richer when the inquiry is generated from the girls, as a result of their own observations within a space they love,” Nicole says.
Nicole has been with the ELC for more than five years, initially as an Artist in Residence before transitioning to her current role of Lead Educator. She is well placed to chair the ELC Sustainability Committee, having majored in Environmental Studies whilst attaining her Bachelor of Education. Nicole is also a former University Lecturer in Early Childhood, Art and STEM studies.
To learn more about the Early Learning Centre, centrally located in South Yarra, click here.