The annual Clean Up Australia Day (Sunday 1st March) is almost upon us – yep, that means February is pretty much in the rearview mirror already! If you haven’t managed to take the children out into your local community yet this year, this could be the nudge you’ve been looking for.
In this week’s Amplify we share the story of Wee Care, a Kindergarten and Long Day Care service that is truly living up to its name by motivating its students and families to care about their local community and take action against rubbish – especially plastics.
We also share tips for cleaning up rubbish in your area and some handy resources.
Children take charge of local litter problem
“We start every year at Wee Care with exploring our centre environment and how we can be responsible for making it clean and safe,” says Founder and Director Ruth Weinstein. “Then we move to the wider community beyond our gates.”
On Clean Up Australia Day this Sunday 1st March, Wee Care children and their families and staff will clean up in Centennial Park after their annual picnic.
The Eco-Warrior program began when the Kindergarten students were dismayed at litter in their own outdoor area and in Waverley Park next door.
“We found litter everywhere (in the park) and it raised concerns for the environment and the damage caused to the birdlife and other creatures that call the park home,” says preschool teacher Frances Forshlager.
“The children of Wee Care wanted to make a difference, so armed with buckets and gloves we started to clean up Waverley Park. Every week various children go out to the park to clean up what others have left behind. This didn’t go unnoticed by the park users, council workers and the wider community.”
To help get the message across, the children started to make posters to encourage people to take their litter home with them or use the bins provided.
“It was during this time that we discovered a new type of litter, rented bicycles, which was inspiration for some mark-making in the form of drawing,” says Frances.
To reach out to the broader community, the posters with their passionate messages were posted on Waverley Park’s car park fence and Frances wrote an article about Eco Warriors that was published in the local paper, the Wentworth Courier.
To extend the experience, each child was asked to reflect on their time in the park through clay.
Art, songs and a meeting with the local Mayor encourage the community to step up
To amplify the voices of their Eco Warriors, Wee Care reached out to Waverley Council and secured their support to hold a public exhibition of all the children’s art in the local library, which was also publicised in the local paper.
As they state in the poster publicising the exhibition, ‘Every child at Wee Care Kindergarten wears two hats, one as a pre-schooler, the other as an Eco-Warrior. Their role in the community is to fight against plastic.’
They have continued their efforts by holding a meeting with the Mayor of Waverley Council and writing and performing The Recycle Song – which the children sang at the library and local shopping centre, to encourage people to use less plastic. One child on holiday with his parents even stood on a bridge in Bangkok and sang to passers-by when he saw the rubbish flowing down the river.
All these efforts have had a real-world result — the council has made an extra effort to keep the park in a cleaner condition.
“Enabling children to go out into the local community and observing areas of need helps nurture values associated with cleaning the local environment. This fosters a sense of responsibility. This also gives the children a presence in the community and helps the community recognise the value of the voices and ideas of the children,” concludes Wee Care Director Ruth Weinstein.
ECO WARRIOR TIPS for cleaning up rubbish in your area:
- Give the children a strong identity and role as leaders in the ‘war on waste’ – give them a mission and name (Eco-Warrior, Eco Champion, Green Saver)
- Do a rubbish audit of a local park or habitat – create graphs
- Link rubbish collection with broader environmental impact – hold lessons on how plastic rubbish harms animals on land, waterways and oceans – use resources like this
- Use the experience to create artwork – Wee Care children did line drawings, paintings and clay models
- Communicate your findings and the children’s concerns to the community – Wee Care added the children’s comments to their posters and posted them on a public fence, held an exhibition of all the artwork at the local library and wrote an article published in the local paper.
- Maintain your commitment across the 7 NQF Quality Areas and overtime