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Sustainability: Embracing a Green Mindset

World Environment Day 2024 takes place on 5 June, focusing on land restoration and the importance of reviving ecosystems. Here are some fun, hands-on learning experiences to help children develop an early appreciation of the planet in a meaningful way.
‘Our Land, Our Future. We are #GenerationRestoration’ – this is the slogan for this year’s United Nations World Environment Day. While last year’s theme focused on solutions to plastic pollution, this year looks at ‘growing forests, reviving water sources and bringing back soils’.
World Environment Day encourages us all to take action to restore our planet. Early years settings can take small green steps towards climate change by incorporating sustainable practices and offering eco-friendly activities.
Helping children to connect with their environment through hands-on, practical activities is the start of their journey in climate education.

Why do we need trees?

Each year, 15 billion trees are cut down worldwide. The UK needs millions more trees to reach its 2050 carbon net-zero target. Trees play a crucial role in fighting climate change. They absorb carbon dioxide – one of the leading causes of climate change – and recycle it, making the air we breathe clean again. Trees and hedges provide homes and food for wildlife, and green spaces improve our physical and mental health.

Here are some ideas for introducing the topic of trees and their importance to young children.

Go on a nature walk: Get to know your native trees and their leaves. During summer, oak trees teem with life, supporting a rich ecology of insects, fungi, lichens, birds and other plants and animals. Caterpillars are fond of oak leaves, and small birds love caterpillars, so watch for nesting tits in late spring and early summer. An oak tree is easy to spot because of its distinctive lobed leaves, thick, grey bark, and fruit, the acorn.
Use this free resource from the Woodland Trust to help identify different leaves.
Collect natural treasures, such as prickly pine cones and empty snail shells, and learn more about the plants and creatures of the forest in this fact-filled guide to the outdoors, Look What I Found In the Woods by Moira Butterfield.

Remember to look for evidence of trees being cut down or planted. This can lead to important discussions about what happens to the inhabitants if the trees are lost.

Explore the details: Look at tree trunks and feel the bark. Take some leaves back to the setting and use microscopes to encourage children to look at the wonders of each leaf. Make some bark rubbings.

Plant a tree: The Woodland Trust donates tree packs to settings. The trees are tiny (known as whips) and are the perfect size for young children to plant. Remember to water and mulch around the bases to give them the best possible chance of survival. See: and

How trees survive: Introduce the idea that trees need water and sun. They share food and resources, shelter and care for one another, and are stronger together.

Water conservation
World Environment Day 2024 also highlights the critical issue of water revival and the importance of restoring and protecting our water resources. Water is our most important natural resource. Cleaning and pumping it to nurseries, schools, homes and businesses has a carbon footprint, so it’s essential to use it efficiently.

Here are some activities and ideas to help young children understand the importance of water conservation and the revival of water ecosystems:

Preserving water: Install a water butt to collect rainwater to use for watering plants, filling outdoor water trays or mud kitchen play.

Brainstorm activity: Ask children what they know about water. Ask them why we need water and discuss where water comes from. Explain that water has to go through a unique process where it is cleaned and free of germs before it comes through our taps and is safe to drink.
Books: Read Little Raindrop by Igloo Books, which introduces the water cycle and what happens to a raindrop when it falls from the sky, or watch it on YouTube.

Worldwide challenges: Consider how access to water can be different for children in other parts of the world. Introduce the idea of droughts and floods. Share pictures and videos of drought-cracked landscapes and explain the importance of saving water where we can, as many people in the world do not have direct access to safe water.
How is water used? Take a trip around the nursery with your eco-champions. Make a list of how you use water daily in the bathroom, kitchen, and outdoors. Engage in discussion about the amount of water used and how to reduce usage, such as turning off taps after hand washing.

Composting is a fantastic activity to highlight for World Environment Day as it promotes sustainability, reduces waste, and enriches soil health.
Here are some ideas and activities to teach children the importance of responsible consumption and production:
Waste audit: Conduct a waste audit with the children, examining what is being thrown away the most and whether changes can be made.
Community walk: When out and about in the community, look at the different-coloured wheelie bins and discuss what they are used for.
Compost bin: investigate composting with the children, looking at what food waste can be composted, how to do it and how it can benefit the soil. Explain that composting is the process of turning organic waste into nutrient-rich soil. Consider getting a compost bin if you don’t already have one.
Complete food production cycle: Consider the long-term benefits of engaging children in the entire food production cycle, from planting, caring for, harvesting, and cooking crops to composting kitchen scraps and garden waste. Set up compost bins in schools for lunch scraps. Through this process, children will create organic matter to return to the garden, helping them grow more food.

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