ECE Horticultural Services in Sydney Hills District

Does your garden need some fresh energy?

I love to help people realise their garden goals and enjoy their time outdoors!

For

Organic garden maintenance

Plant advice, including indoor plants

Creation or maintenance of thoughtful and practical gardens

Help setting up veggie plots or to bring more edibles into your garden

Birds, insects and wildlife attractive gardens a speciality.

Expert in shoebox and transportable rental gardens! I also work with schools and corporations to create sensory gardens, bush tucker gardens and other outdoor learning and healing spaces.

I just love to transform monoculture lawn spaces to healthy biodiverse gardens!

As a horticulturalist and conservationist for over 20 years, and as a student of permaculture and environmental management my purpose is to help reconnect people to the natural world… and plant more trees!

If you need large scale landscaping, mowing or hedging we have some good referrals to pass along.

If this sounds like you and your little patch of earth, please get in touch HERE

EarthConnect Services

for Early Childhood Services and Primary Schools

EarthConnect comes to you with everything needed to support children’s connection to the natural world through fun and interactive education for sustainability experiences. Suitable for ALL Greater Sydney Early Childhood services, playgroups, homeschool groups and schools from early stage 1 to stage 3.

Bush Tucker

Sensory Gardens

Propagation-seeds or succulents

ECO art

Scroll down further for COSTS and frequently asked questions

Bush Tucker Experience

Children will:

Learn more about the native plants that sustained First Nations people on the Country your school or service stands on.

Build confidence and expertise in horticulture and garden care.

Plant an easy-care bush tucker plant in a biodegradable or upcycled container to treasure at home or keep and nurture at the service/school.

Learn how to care for their own plant and how to use it for food or other benefits.

If possible, children will try some bush tucker too!

Harvesting Midgim berries with preschoolers

Details:

This experience will empower children to become experts in local flora and build wellbeing and confidence.

Children will be encouraged to connect to Country and begin to be active participants in caring for Country through greater respect for the natural environment and an appreciation for bush tucker plants.

Children will be encouraged to share their expertise and learn from each other as well as from presenters.

Children will develop language and communication skills and will learn the Indigenous names of relevant plants (when possible) and botanical names.

Children will develop their knowledge and understanding of plant needs and will be given the skills and expertise nurture their own plant (a pdf will be supplied to support this which can be sent home to families and referred to by teachers and educators).

You will receive information linking this experience to the Early Years Learning Framework or NESA outcomes.

Book Now! email care@earthconnecteducation.com

Sensory Garden

Sensory gardens are now recognised as an important way to support children’s development and connection to the natural world, they can be small or large, native or edible or both!

For services and schools who are ready* to plant a sensory garden. Can be modified for Bird attracting/butterfly and insect gardens and native gardens.

Children will:

Learn more about the native plants that sustained First Nations people on the Country your school or service stands on.

Take ownership of a garden or gardens, and become experts in the care of a particular garden type.

Primary school children will conduct soil testing and analysis prior to planting.

Each child or group of children will plant a suitable seedling into the school or service’s ready prepared* garden or containers, gaining hands on practical knowledge in horticulture and botany .

Learn how to care for the garden and how to use plants for food or other benefits.

*All bookings for Sensory Garden require a discussion about the garden or containers, as this experience will provide your service or school with plants and expertise, not any of the landscaping materials or conditions that forms a successful garden or any guarantee of success. As we all want the children to experience horticultural success we need to ensure all elements are optimal. An onsite consultation can be booked with our Horticulturalist prior to implementing this experience for greatest success.

Checking soil with primary students

Details:

Services will benefit from our Horticultural and educational expertise and can request plant types according to program or children’s interests.

Recipes or other useful extension information specific to your garden will be provided in pdf form.

This experience will put you and your service on the path to sensory garden success.

You will receive information linking this experience to the Early Years Learning Framework or NESA outcomes.

Book Now! email care@earthconnecteducation.com

Propagation- Seeds

Develop life skills and learn to grow seeds for food and fun, and become experts in seed raising.

IDEAL for schools or services looking to collect seeds from their site or the local area and grow native plants to send home to families or to the community.

Children will:

Be introduced to agriculture and how to grow plants for food from seeds

Learn about some of the native plants that sustained First Nations people on the country of your service.

Build confidence and expertise in horticulture and garden care.

Plant seasonal and easy care seed in a biodegradable or up-cycled container to nurture at the service/school.

Learn how to care for their own plant and how to use it for food or other benefits.

More details:

This experience will empower children to be experts in propagation! Children can take this knowledge home and grow seeds with confidence.

Explore seeds in daily life, from food products and cooking with seeds to growing food and ornamental plants. Learn about the seeds that grow (or might grow) on the grounds of the school/service gardens and what role they have in the ecosystem.

Children connect to the country and begin to be active participants in caring for country through greater respect for the natural environment and an appreciation for native plants.

Children will be encouraged to share their expertise and learn from each other as well as from presenters.

Children will develop language and communication skills and will learn the Indigenous names of plants in their garden (when possible) and the botanical names too.

Children will develop their knowledge and understanding of plant needs and will be given the skills and expertise nurture their own plant (a pdf will be supplied to support this which can be sent home to families and referred to by teachers and educators)

NOTE: this experience used seeds from organic growers, avoiding the harmful coatings of fungicides and insecticides found on commercial non-organic seeds suppliers.

You will receive information linking this experience to the Early Years Learning Framework or NESA outcomes.

Book Now! email care@earthconnecteducation.com

Propagation- Succulents

Succulents are so much fun! Children of all ages love these funky plants, many of which are super easy to grow and propagate

Children will:

Discover propagation by cuttings, learn the parts of plants and become experts in propagation.

Learn about some of the health benefits of certain types of succulents.

Identify good growing locations for common succulent varieties.

Learn about some of the native plants that sustained First Nations people on the country of your service.

Build confidence and expertise in horticulture and garden care.

Choose a succulent and plant in a biodegradable or upcycled container to take home or keep and nurture at the service/school.

Learn how to care for their own plant and how to use it for food or other benefits.

More Details:

This experience will empower children to be experts in propagation!

Explore seeds in daily life, from growing food, harvesting and processing food and ornamental plants. Learn about the seeds that grow (or might grow) in the school/service gardens and what role they have in the ecosystem.

The principals of propagating succulents are transferrable to many other plant types, and succulent success inspires further gardening enthusiasm!

Children connect to the country and begin to be active participants in caring for country through greater respect for the natural environment and an appreciation for native plants.

Children will be encouraged to share their expertise and learn from each other as well as from Karen and staff.

Children will develop language and communication skills and will learn the Indigenous names of plants in their garden (when possible) and the botanical names too.

Children will develop their knowledge and understanding of plant needs and will be given the skills and expertise nurture their own plant (a pdf will be supplied to support this which can be sent home to families and referred to by teachers and educators)

You will receive information linking this experience to the Early Years Learning Framework or NESA outcomes.

Book Now! email care@earthconnecteducation.com

ECO DYE 1

Eucalyptus printing with children (requires 2 bookings)

Over 2 visits children will:

Gain a greater connection to Country and the plants that sustain us and express this connection artistically.

Create an experimental piece of art on felt using leaves and naturally occurring dye materials.

Eco dye introduces children to naturally occurring pigments and chemistry and can support studies in fibre production and sustainability.

Experience a range of sensory materials and processes.

More Details:

This experience allows children to learn about dyeing fabric and offers them the opportunity to express this creatively.

This is slow art, and has it’s own timing and processes. This can only be experienced in 2 sessions presented within a week. Booking are limited.

Visit one (day one):

Children are introduced to the concept of changing the colour of fabric through history and a brief age-appropriate introduction to the environmental impacts mass production of textiles has.

Children share their expertise and are encouraged to brainstorm ways they have the power to make a difference as young consumers.

Develop motor skills and connection to the natural world as children arrange leaves on felt in small groups and prepare this for heat transfer. Prepared art will be taken away to be cooked for an hour, then allowed to cool to be ready for day two.

ECO DYE 2

Eucalyptus printing with children (requires 2 bookings)

Children explore a natural dye pot full of mucky colours and natural smells and open their art work! This is always a memorable moment.

Discussion on natural fibres will be held with the opportunity to handle a variety of commonly used sensory textile fibres. In early childhood this will be presented through story and song rather than extended discussion.

Note: no harmful mordants are used in this experience! All elements are natural and safe to be handled.

A change of clothes may be required for day 2 as children will be working with damp felt.  

What is required of you:

Space in your usual art drying location outside or a rack and pegs for children to hang their work.

Water to rinse felt on day 2

Extend this or optional day 3 visit for sewing! (ages 5 and up) Children love to sew and wool felt is easy to handle and learn with

Benefits of learning to sew include:

-Increased confidence and capable self-identities

-Building resilience and fine motor skills

-maths processes including patterning, spatial awareness, measurement estimation and using informal measurement estimations.

These were sewn by preschoolers!

Email us for more information or support to take this experience to the next level. Popular for gifts! Parents have loved this so that on request I have prepared a DIY PDF for them (and you!).

You will receive information linking this experience to the Early Years Learning Framework or NESA outcomes.

Book Now! email care@earthconnecteducation.com

Consultations

Supporting busy educators achieve their sustainability goals

Horticultural discussions are what we live for, so please get in touch if you would like to get some advice on your garden.

We have extensive experience gardening with children and love to design gardens with children, involving them in decisions that affect their world.

QIP (Quality Improvement Plan for early childhood services) area 3 discussions can build on ideas and help achieve goals. (note, we do not currently provide area 3 audits)

We are building more experiences all the time, get in touch if you would like to have a Worm Farm revival experience, bake some bread, or do some felting.

Choose an option that suits you: like our facebook page, join the newsletter or join the community for updates.

COSTS

Booking will be charged per number of children, plus materials for 1 educator or teacher to participate and learn free of charge.

For Schools: stages 1 to 3

Experiences run for 1 hour

$10 plus GST per child (minimum 15, maximum 30 per session) and will include a take home or nurture at service or school component.

Up to 3 experiences can be booked per day, and subsequent same day bookings are charged at $9.50 plus GST per child (minimum 15 per experience booking).

Early Childhood services including preschools

Experiences run for 45 minutes

$9 plus GST per child (minimum 15, maximum 25 per session) and will include a take home or nurture at school component.

Up to 3 experiences can be booked per day, and subsequent same day bookings are charged at $8.50 plus GST per child (minimum 15 per experience booking).

Contact us if you would like to discuss a variation on a workshop, such as to design and plant your own bush tucker or bird attracting garden, or propagating a specific plant type.

Facts and frequently asked questions:

What is required of the service/school?

Space! Either inside or outside, we need at least 1 large table to set up on and room for your students to sit and participate. We will need access to this space about half an hour before and will stay long enough to clean up our mess after 😉

Unless specified above or requested, we will bring all materials required other than a table.

We will encourage hands on participation and endeavour to make the workshop engaging and fun, however your staff will be present and responsible for all areas of children’s wellbeing and safety, including ratios. Our staff will not be included in ratios.

Service Area:

We service the Greater Sydney area. We will consider regional visits when possible, please get in touch if you would like to discuss this.

Tailored programs:

Yes, we will happily tailor an experience to suit your needs, and are thrilled when asked to make experiences relevant to children’s learning! Pop us an email to discuss.

Qualifications and experience?

All our staff have current WWCC checks and qualifications or extensive proven experience in teaching, sustainability, art and horticulture.

Safety issues?

Our programs and workshops are considered very safe and valuable activities however you can ask to see our risk assessment for soil handing, ingestion of materials or any other elements with small and unlikely risks.

We are a COVID Safe Business.

Finally, results can vary and artistic explorations are allowed to be experimental! Teachers and educators are encouraged to take part and learn these processes too (provided adequate supervision is maintained) each booking allows materials for one educator free of charge.

The Carbon Cost of Hand Drying in Early Childhood Services

Cloth hand towels or Paper towels?

Countless staff meetings are held discussing the substantiality of drying hands across Australia, but before you yawn and skip away I might have some answers for you! Here are the take away points from relevant research condensed for you. Including….drum roll…a winner!

I have sifted through many of the studies on hand dryers vs paper towels to get to the bottom of this once and for all! What is the carbon cost for us and our planet of drying hands?

Before we get into the nitty gritty, we need to acknowledge that cotton and paper towels are the most hygienic way to dry hands (Liew, 2009) because dry hands resist bacteria (Huang, 2012) in middle of a pandemic this must be a consideration and to go down that path, it seems to me that handling, drying and storing cotton cloths is going to impact how hygienic this option is.

I looked at the 3 common options in ECE services:

1. A hand towel that comes to the service with the child and returns home to be washed and gets used throughout the day.

I list this one for all the services that make this work! Hats off to you! It seems that many families forget though, and there is no control over line drying or ‘green’ laundry practices or even washing at all between days. And, of course, this towel is used by the child through the day, building up any of the bacteria that survives a 3 or 4 year old’s hand wash practices.

2. Face washers for single use, washed and dried in the service

3. Paper towels. Paper towels can be bought as a recycled product, and this article assumes this is the case for services.

Notes on cotton:

Firstly we need to really consider the issues with cotton (as we should with all our off the shelf purchases), which has a host of very real concerns from pesticides and herbicides to GMO seeds. Production, dyes, damage to biodiversity, water use, shipping and unethical working environments for some of the world’s most vulnerable people are all part of this story (Kooistra, 2006), and although the Australian Cotton Sustainability Report (Australian Cotton Industry’s Sustainability Group 2019) paints a slightly more positive picture cotton is still a very real concern for humanity. This article isn’t the place to dive right into cotton and fast fashion, so we will just look at the carbon cost of washing and leave the ethics and costs of transport etc for another day.

Brilliant:

2 educators told us that their NSW services have or will have families donate old towels which are repurposed for hand washing cloths. To make it simple, this review is going to assume you are repurposing cotton cloths and then composting them at the end of their life negating the carbon cost equation.

Op shops or somewhere like Reverse Garbage would be the other place to go for ethical purchases

Paper Towels

The Guardian states that each paper towel has a carbon cost of 20g CO2e, however research from the University of British Columbia (Liew, 2009) puts the cost at 56g of CO2 emitted per 2 paper towels and includes the costs of transport and other factors. This is confirmed in other sources. We will go with the research paper’s findings of 56g per CO2.

2 paper towels equals 56g C02

My poll of early childhood teachers says what I expected: children are encouraged to use 2 pieces of paper each wash, and experience says that there are the occasions where children use way more! Let’s go with 2 per wash.

Cloth hand towels or washers for drying hands

To make these numbers relate to early childhood services, I requested information from member on an Early Childhood Teachers group on facebook. From those who could provide numbers of towels per load, I took an average, and it seems that we wash 112 cloths per load per day, sometimes with other items, sometimes not.

The whole point of this article is so you don’t need to spend hours working out the carbon cost per towel, but I would like to explain parts of this process so you can look into it for your individual machine, if you choose.

WASHING

If the cost of washing and drying a load from Canstar worked out for my own big family machine to be an average of 1.15kWh. Obviously, each machine and setting will give a different result, for how to work out your machine’s cost visit here.

Converting the cost of electricity per load into C02 is fairly simple even for an artist like me (email if you would like my calculations) with the result of 4.57g of C02 per individual cloth for washing and line drying. This compares very well with the C02 emissions for 2 pieces of paper which is 56g.

Washing and line dry: roughly 4.57g C02 per cloth

DRYING:

An condensor average dryer uses costs 4.6kWh which equals 1.91kg C02 per load! Divide that 112 cloths gives a carbon cost of 17.13g per load =21.7g for washing and drying.

By comparison, the Guardian (Berners-Lee 2010) must have worked out the C02e emissions for a different washer/dryer combo and individual cloths comes to 21.4g C02e.

The study by researchers at University of British Columbia (Liew, 2009) found worked out the cost of one cloth as 0.01715 kWh (8) came to a few grams less than these calculations, however this for a roll of continuous dispensing cloth, with a similar amount of use potential.

Washing and Machine Dry: roughly 21.7g per cloth

Composting used paper towels

Composting paper towels is said to reduce C02 by 50% but I am still looking for the research to support that. I does seem reasonable, so my estimation that composting the paper towels will bring the cost in C02 down to 28g.

There are commercial services that will collect and compost waste for you. There are also countless articles about composting paper towels in your compost system, here is one of the many. To make a long story short, yes! so long as the paper towel does not have oils or chemicals, or other contaminates on it (soap and water is fine), compost away!

Your local council will most likely have an environmental education officer who can help you start your composting journey, or contact EarthConnect for Sydney composting incursions and set up. Many NSW services already compost their paper towels, please comment below with any tips for the rest of us!

Results

WINNER: Washing and line dry: roughly 4.57g C02 per cloth

Washing and Machine Dry: roughly 21.7g per cloth

LOSER: 2 paper towels: 56g C02

2 paper towels composted estimated: 28g CO2

And because we know it happens: washing and flicking water around the room: exactly 0.0g CO2 😉

Final notes

Hand washing practices are one way we can educate for sustainability, helping children make appropriate choices around water use and landfill. It is important that the conversation does not stop at hand drying practices though, as the carbon footprint of paper products are reported to represent 1% of the total (for US households in 2018) (The Two Sides Team, 2018).  As many services and individuals have pledged to do, small things like buying local and turning off the air con may have a greater impact on climate change than our paper towel consumption.  

I honestly thought that we would find that running a dryer every day would be comparable to composting paper towels!

In my most recent service, we opted for recycled paper towels, but turned off lights and heating or cooling and grew much of the food we used for cooking. We hoped to start composting our towels, but covid came and that was dropped pretty fast! I share this because in my opinion, it is not about getting sustainability perfect, but supporting each other and staying firmly on the journey towards it. Please get in touch below or on the community and let us all know what you are doing!

Sources:

  1. Australian Cotton Industry’s Sustainability Group (2019), AUSTRALIAN COTTON SUSTAINABILITY REPORT 2019 https://www.crdc.com.au/sites/default/files/pdf/Australian%20Cotton%20Sustainability%20Report%202019%20-%20single%20pages.pdf
  2. Berners-Lee, Clark, D, (2010) What’s the carbon footprint of … a load of laundry? https://www.theguardian.com/environment/green-living-blog/2010/nov/25/carbon-footprint-load-laundry
  3. Huang, C, Wenjun, M, Stack, S, (2012) The Hygienic Efficacy of Different Hand-Drying Methods: A Review of the Evidence Mayo Clinic Proc, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3538484/
  4. Kooistra, K, Termorshuizen, A, Pyburn, R, (2006) The sustainability of cotton : consequences for man and environment, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/40115240_The_sustainability_of_cotton_consequences_for_man_and_environment
  5. Lieu, J, D’Souza, A, Straka, A, Chua, S, (2009) An Investigation into the Sustainable Attributes of Three Hand Drying Methods: Paper Towels, Cloth Towels and Hand dryer University of British Columbia https://open.library.ubc.ca/cIRcle/collections/undergraduateresearch/18861/items/1.0108236
  6. The Two Sides Team, (2018) Our carbon footprint: How do paper products fit in? https://twosidesna.org/US/our-carbon-footprint-how-do-paper-products-fit-in/

Making something of nothing

3 free and easy outdoor play ideas that using what you already have (or are likely to have)

Cloud gazing

And sky watching (all ages)

Set up

Outside with a cloth on the ground and even some pillows if you are feeling fancy. Ideally in the shade of a tree out of the main play space in a bit of shade if it’s hot. Clear blue sky is perfect! Don’t wait for a cloudy day.

Anxious children benefit from this activity, and to help them participate find a location near walls or put up a barrier so they can relax and watch the clouds go by without worry that they will be stepped on.

You might need to demonstrate this one! Just make sure supervision is covered and enjoy.

Why Cloud gaze with children?

We all spend a lot of time looking at screens and looking into the mid-distance. This gives our eyes a different focal length to support eye health and as we lay still on the earth, our breathing will slow and we will (hopefully!) relax a bit, letting our wound-up nervous systems have a little break.

Looking at clouds or into the wide blue sky brings new perspectives. It is not unusual for children to offer insights into their lives and seek support from educators when they participate in this activity.

When children’s lives are super busy and they are overstimulated with media, social interactions, activities in care and without and everything else young people have to deal with, slowing down is vital, as this constant stress inhibits healthy growth and development.

I normally set this up for a week or more at a time, so children have a chance to observe, compare the sky between days and begin to predict changes, as well as get used to an activity that is still and asks for imagination. This is also wonderful in light rain, don’t be afraid to get a little wet!

Most importantly, did you know that the vagus nerve, which controls your parasympathetic nervous system and other essential functions can be activated with gentle relaxed eye movements, particularly those focusing on the far distance? Exactly like watching clouds, right!? You might like to do this at home, we definitely do. Indications of vagus nerve activation include deeper breathing and a feeling of contentment. Don’t we all want more of that!?

Potential provocations:

Ask about clouds-shapes, colours and speed. What would they see here in the dark? What can they not see? For example I wonder why I can’t see the stars when the sun is out? Does it look like it will rain/be sunny/get windy?

Links to Early Years Learning Framework (Australia’s EYLF)

In my mind this is an outcome 1 activity, as it is great for new students and quiet reserved students, linking particularly to 1.1 children feel safe secure and supported. However, it is literally connecting physically with the earth and sky (outcome 2.4) and is a sensory exploration (Outcome 4.3 and 4.4). Sky gazing can become a wonderful area 5 activity, with listening, sharing and communicating being key to exploring and belonging to the earth and to the group.

What’s next?

Consider using white wax crayons on paper to make clouds and painting over with blue watercolours, or bring some numeracy into the experience by recording temperature and clouds on a chart. There are thousands of ideas, let us know if you or the children in your care come up with better ideas!

Leaf, stone and flower mandalas

Bringing outside inside (ages 4 and up)

A personal note from Karen: When I first started in early childhood, fresh off my cert 4, I worked in a room that had so much respect and reverence for the natural world that children were stopped from picking leaves and flowers. And they really wanted to! It was such a beautiful garden. These children learnt to break the rules if they chose to continue their learning, which makes me feel so sad for them now. If only I could go back and have a word with my younger self!

My opinion now is that your entire outdoor space is a classroom for children.

Over time, as I learnt more from children and less from adults, I came to realise that children required direct sensory access to plant materials to create a connection to the natural world. Yes, sometimes that looks like ripping up and destroying, but this is one of the ways young people conduct research. Children can learn that bees need flowers, that butterflies won’t visit if we pick all their flower-food or that lemons wont ripen if we pick them green and throw them around, for the most part the garden should be an open invitation to learn!

Set up

Create a treasure hunt for children. Ask for green leaves, brown leaves, flowers, rocks and feathers. This does not need much explaining, whatever you have in your garden will work! If you don’t have an outdoor space with enough leaves, stones and other objects that is ok, you might be able ask children to bring some in from home with their parents help. And maybe bring in a few extra flowers and leaves if you can. A labelled basket, paper bag or a box will be helpful if you are not creating patterns right away

Ask children to bring their collection inside ready to create patterns using the collected treasures. You can create communally or individually, sticking them down with glue on paper or moving them around to see what other patterns you can create.

Why?

Many children love direction and clear outcomes, as well as action and adventure. I am sure you can think of children who fit this description! Frequently these are the people who like to build rather than participate in fine motor activity. We have found that once they have their own collection of leaves, rocks and other hard-won treasures, they are more likely to sit with them and spend some time exploring them and developing a connection.

Covid19 and the increased pace of life has impacted how much time children are able to spend in outdoor spaces and away from screens, and this can mean that free imaginative play is harder to access. This activity is a stepping stone to getting down and dirty in the garden and really seeing the tiny worlds that exist under our hedges and between the pavers.

Links to the Early Years Learning Framework

In order to meet outcome 2.4, children need to have a personal connection to the environment. Using natural materials in a quiet space children also increase their sense of wellbeing (3.2) by engaging in gross and fine motor activity. Patterns and counting of course bring maths concepts (4.2) and early literacy gets a look in too, as we offer symbols to translate into physical collections (5.4).

Rock grinding.

Risk assessing and geology (ages 4 and up)

If you live in Sydney or other coastal areas, this one is for you! This one requires a few materials that hopefully you will have around the place.

You will need

Small sandstone rocks of different colours and a surface to grind them on

Small play buckets

Clean dustpan and brush

Funnels

Small glass jars labelled with names

Old crayons or beeswax

Part one:

Where to get the sandstone, I hear you ask. Identify sandstone here. Perhaps your services garden has some sandstone lying around? Avoid collecting sandstone from natural areas such as the beach or national park, however once you start looking, you will most likely see them everywhere! If you have sandstone in your service, chances are your children already do this activity.

Using concrete or a large rock as a grinding surface, demonstrate to children how to hold the rock without scratching theirs or other’s fingers and to grind the sandstone up and down on the surface into sand. Collect the sand into buckets with the dustpan and brush, keeping the colours as separate as possible. It can take many play times to get enough sand for part two, however the really good part is the learning children are engaging in while they grind!

Part two:

Using funnels, children can carefully tip the sand into the jars, changing colours as they like. Tap the jar gently on a surface to settle the sand and add more if possible right up to the top. Educators to seal with old melted crayons away from children or cotton wool (or anything that will apply pressure under the lid to stop the sand moving).

Why?

This is a wonderful opportunity for children to develop strength, dexterity, spatial awareness and to assess risks for themselves. For those who need a lot of sensory feedback and repetition, this is a great activity to have available all the time, if supervision allows.

Children go on to manipulate funnels, pouring sand and holding jars in complex ways and can see first hand how sedimentary rocks are formed. Some children need a little help looking after other people around rocks and taking care not to knock fingers, so a little shadowing will be a good idea!

What’s next?

Geometry studies if children have questions and interest! In my experience, children love to extend this themselves to making natural rock dust paints by adding water and painting leaves, buildings and each other! Contact your local indigenous community and see if they can put you in touch with Indigenous educators who can bring indigenous perspectives to extend children’s knowledge and understanding of Australian culture and heritage.

Links to the Early Years Learning Framework:

You might see other things when doing this with your class, but to me this is outcome 4.2 all over: manipulate objects and experiment with cause and effect, trial and error and motion.

Follow, like, comment, join our community…there are so many ways to support EarthConnect Education! We would love to hear from you through any of these forums <3 Karen

Legal Disclaimer: While these ideas are as old as time and well used by children and educators around the world in free play already, Earthconnect Education is not responsible for any incident, injury or accident as a result of any of this information, experiences or ideas.  Speak to your director and educational leader before implementing and together create risk assessments before bringing them to your classroom

On rare pink flowers, fires and resilience

And taking reluctant teenagers on long hikes

Many things happened in the early months of 2021. I think most of us were excited about the new year and were looking forward to getting back to normal.

How wrong we were! 2021 has been a rollercoaster of a year!

This is a story of something wonderful. Something AWEsome.

Thousands of plant and nature lovers (and my children) took themselves on socially distanced pilgrimages into mountains and ridges to find fields of these tiny rare flowers. The pink flannel flower, Actinotus forsythii, which is related to plants like celery and carrots and of course the iconic white Flannel flower called, and we responded.

This delicate herb requires highly specific climatic conditions for the seed, which has waited in the soil since the last flowering decades ago, to germinate. For these flowers, it was bushfires of 2020 which devastated so much of Australia, followed by rainfall in 2021 which allowed them to grow. Their climatic requirements are so specific these plants are next to impossible to propagate.

We may not see this again in our life time

I told my children while they alternatively fought with each other and sulked. They were unimpressed. Teenagers and preteens on their 11 zillionth bush walk can be like that.

Until we got to the ridge where burnt out shrubs regrew and the ground was carpeted in soft pink. Then there was silence.

Along with many other plant-pilgrims we sat in silent awe and wonder, between the blackened and burnt Banksias and Casuarina’s on a ridge in Sydney’s Blue Mountains. There was an atmosphere of reverence as we considered how the seeds waited so many years only to be activated by the wild and devastating fires of 2020, which had roared up the ridges and cliffs where we sat, consuming everything in their path. Or so it seemed. Life remained and seasons passed. Rains fell. We are grateful.

It was at this time that ECE was just getting started, and we looked to the lesson of the Actinotus forsythii, that out of adversity comes wonder, awe and resilience. We took inspiration from this experience for our logo and to set the direction for ECE.

ECE is dedicated to supporting our next generation of policy makers and leaders in sustainability. May they learn from the traditional owners of the land how to care for the sacred country we live on and follow in imitation of the adults around them in their careful custody of country, earth, plants, animals and each other, and grow in awe and wonder at the natural world.

I would love to end this blog post

by telling you the elder one quit provoking her brother or that the brother played happy car games all the way home because of the impact that visiting this little pink flower plant inspired, but sadly that isn’t true. However I know that continually giving young people the opportunity to experience first hand nature’s miracles and devastations is the best way to nourish the seed of awareness and respect for the planet. I was recently pleasantly surprised to have these two willingly commit to ongoing volunteering to remove weeds with landcare, and they show every sign of loving it. Perhaps it was the pink flannel flowers…