Sustainability Learning Centre: Capturing young minds

23 Feb 2017

"It’s been wonderful to see children embracing their natural environment."


Department of Education Manager of Sustainability Programs

When sustainability and awareness of our natural environment intertwines with education at the early learning stage, magical things can happen. This is the mantra of Hobart’s Sustainability Learning Centre – Tasmania’s first 6 Star Green Star rated building.

Built from materials salvaged from an old warehouse, 98% of these materials originate from landfill. 80% of its steel and timber has been repurposed and half its concrete is recycled. The Centre is made to be easily disassembled and was constructed using zero construction adhesives. Despite its impressive structural elements, a reimagined approach to early education is what makes this project a turning point for innovation.

“It’s been wonderful to see children embracing their natural environment,” says Department of Education Manager of Sustainability Programs, Jenny Dudgeon.

“We launched the Bush Kinder program pilot here last year. We’re inviting children to explore and wonder about the land and its First Peoples, interact with nature and experience its seasonal changes, helping to build capabilities; resilient, confident, involved and curious learners,” she continues.

Using the Department of Education’s Early Learning Framework, the Bush Kinder uses what’s outside the Centre’s front door to teach children social and environmental disciplines such as safety, empathy and respect.

“We’re about developing curious children,” says Dudgeon.

“For example, we've had young children have respond to bark and sticks in the bush and build a cubby using all the bountiful loose parts. Once one child started building others joined in, until there was a team of children working cooperatively; problem solving, figuring out how to move the large windfall limbs and asking the adults looking on to join their team to help carry the limb to the cubby site.”

In late February, the Centre will launch an immersion program, welcoming school groups to attend the Centre every Tuesday for four weeks to embrace experiential learning - a very tactile approach to learning.

An Aboriginal Education Worker will also be on site at the Bush Kinder to invite the children to walk on Country to explore the land, how to read their surroundings and appreciate the flora and fauna around them.

Teachers and professional groups have participated in a series of nature play and bush kinder educational workshops, involving a balance of theoretical understandings and hands on activities to reap the benefits of research-based, nature-based, play-based pedagogy.