Sustainability and early childhood education

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Researching for Minnesota 2020′s upcoming Buy Local report has me thinking a lot lately about sustainability issues.  While I’ve found so many businesses in Minnesota wanting to do the right thing when it comes to saving the environment, some have given little thought to the issue. It’s not that they’re large-scale polluters or don’t care about preserving resources.  When asked, they want to do their part but just don’t know how beyond the basics like recycling.

I think a lot of it has to do with building awareness at a young age, which is what the Macalester Plymouth Preschool in St. Paul is trying to accomplish.

The Preschool’s curicculum “is designed to encourage compassion and respect for our planet. When students leave this program, we hope they will take with them a love of the Earth that will grow into adulthood.”

In class, the children read “Michael Recycle” and recognize the importance of reusing by learning about children in small African villages who make toys from salvaged materials. During playtime, students use durable wooden toys from Wonderment and Peapods the school purchased more than 10 years ago. The toys, originally made from reclaimed wood, still look new.

“We use the expression ‘mother earth’ a lot,” says pre-K teacher Sue McMann. From learning about the rainforest to underwater creatures, the message is clear:  “We only have one earth; once it’s gone, it’s gone forever. They repeat that back to us all the time,” she says.

In the springtime, the children learn to plant seeds in the garden and pick up litter in the neighborhood. “Ten years ago, there was litter everywhere, but it’s harder to find now,” says McMann.

As Minnesota’s next generation knows, “every day you should make the earth better.”