Sustainable actions in small schools and homes

I have been asked to summarise the way sustainable principles have been put into action in a small school which follows Montessori principles. Through a holistic lens it seems that most things that are good practice generally follow Sustainability practice.  Here are some ideas that might help you take small actions to engage children at home and in the classroom in big ideas.

Sustainable Utilities

The children take part in daily reducing, reusing and recycling of waste.  We deliberately limit the number of materials in a Montessori environment so that children make careful choices about the materials they use, they take care of the material and help to clean their school, we reuse packaging brought from home for our art supplies and sort waste from snacks and lunch into plastic, paper, compostable and other, the children compost their waste daily and take the other sorted waste to the bins each week. We discuss using energy and water carefully, water must be filled from the bathroom tap and carried to the classroom for children’s work so they see its value, we have had a presentation from a parent about renewable energy and only use electric lights on dark days, try to ventilate the room by leaving the door open and fan on and by wearing appropriate clothing rather than using air-conditioning or the heater. In Montessori education, this is referred to as Practical Life.

Sustainable Curriculum Content

Each month we focus on a different continent and it’s people and biospheres, visual art and music from that place, an area of scientific knowledge and choose one major healthy food to learn to cook, we also have a theme about how we can make more sustainable choices about our use of energy, resources and water.  With books and pieces of music we encourage the children to be Global Citizens, to know about other people from the world and how they lives are effected by their environment.  For more details see examples of our monthly planning in the appendix.

Sustainable Relationships

Green leaves from a tree hang in front of a cloudy sky.
The elegance of nature inspires us not to waste at an intuitive level.

Here we learn the skills of being a Global Citizen, where we interact with each other with respect and behave as individuals with mindfulness in Montessori this is called Grace and Courtesy. Children participate in games and activities which are co-operative, so in an Easter Egg Hunt, we share what we find, when we get ready to go outside more able children help others to put on their shoes and find their coats, for lunch we all prepare the table together.  We speak to each other with respect, acknowledging each other’s feelings and needs and communicating what we would like without blaming and name-calling.  These are the building blocks for Peace Education.

Sustainable Minds and Bodies

We learn about the Human Body, the care our sensory organs need, the need to eat well, be hygienic, take exercise, get sufficient rest and protect ourselves from excessive sun and cold.  We play outside for a short time each day the weather permits and look at our natural environment which calms our minds, we try simple visualisations and yoga exercises and read books which inspire love, care and community.

Set self-imposed limits

Being a zero-waste school is a fantastic aim and not yet a description that we can currently live up to. One thing we can do though is set self-imposed limits, by agreeing that we will try not to bring single-use plastic containers into school, or buy stickers to share, but instead cut and glue from used wrapping paper. When we buy the new a new sunhat we can try to find someone who needs the one we have, have fun together repainting old furniture, share a cake for birthdays instead of bringing in individually wrapped portions of sweets. The small things make a difference and provide opportunities to care for and support each other as we do it.

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