Little Earth sparkles with Green Gold

by Nicola Easthope
10th November 2011
L-R Laila Shields-Buschi & Grace O`Dowda

“This centre is an example for others to follow”

Steady rain could not dampen the spirits of over 60 preschoolers and their parents from the Little Earth Montessori Preschool community, Paraparaumu, as they celebrated achieving a ‘Green-Gold’ Enviroschools award on Wednesday.

Local families were joined by their Tawa Montessori Preschool counterparts, who had already begun celebrating on their way, on the train.

The festivities began with a forest walk in the nearby Nikau Reserve, where the children sang a home-grown waiata, acknowledging the realm of Tane Mahuta.

Back at the preschool, Kapiti Coast District Council’s Water Use Advisor, Ben Thompson, Waste Minimisation Officer, Simon Calicinai, and Greater Wellington Regional Councillor, Nigel Wilson, were on hand to present the Green-Gold certificate and flag.

In his speech, Mr Thompson said, “This centre is an example for others to follow – where the philosophy allows children to explore sustainability in their everyday lives – in fun and practical ways.” Councillor Wilson emphasised how important the children’s work and way of life is at the preschool.

In the two years since opening, the preschool has showed a strong commitment to the Enviroschools principles. Anja Geelen, Principal, says the Enviroschools Programme provides a great framework to help schools make sure their decision making is sustainable. “Being an enviroschool is more than just what you teach; being an enviroschools is how you are.” The centre has become an inspiring example of ecological, social and educational vision and practice that cherishes children, staff, whanau, and the local environment.

From a bare plot of land on Te Tupe Road in 2009, the centre was constructed using sustainable design principles including use of natural materials providing an even temperature and good ventilation.  It is surrounded by vegetable and flower gardens, an orchard with free ranging chickens and guinea pigs, a lizard garden and ‘Bug Hotel’, and native plantings. Food scraps are composted or fed to the chooks, seeds are collected and propagated, most of the waste recycled, rainwater stored and harvested, and energy conserved through the building’s ecological design. The children have even studied and made their own soil, from scratch.

Little Earth emphasises caring values, of each other and in turn, the natural world. The five Guiding Principles of the Enviroschools Programme – Empowered Children, Sustainable Communities, Maori Perspectives, Learning for Sustainability, and Respect for the Diversity of People and Cultures – are interwoven with the Montessori teaching pedagogy.

 “Green-Gold is awarded to schools and preschools once sustainability has become embedded into the preschool culture”, says Kapiti Enviroschools Facilitator, Nicola Easthope. “The decision to give this award was a consensus one, made by a team of people including staff and parents from the school as well as members of the Enviroschools team from across the country. With their ideas and curiosity, the children at Little Earth are leading the way towards sustainability, with help from adults in their community. It is a remarkable centre of learning and living.”