Top Award for Early Childhood Sustainability Education

Published 24 September 2013

UNE_Sprouts_award_Nadine_McCrea_1965A University of New England academic has received a top honour for her program on how to teach about sustainability at an early childhood level.

Dr Nadine McCrea, an Associate Professor of Early Childhood Education at UNE, described her SPROuts Practise Award from the NSW Early Childhood Environmental Education Network as rewarding recognition.

SPROuts is short for Sustainable Projects Recognising Outstanding Practise and Dr McCrea’s Award was the first ever presented to an individual.

The award recognises Dr McCrea’s efforts organising the New England Children’s Services Eco-mentoring Network. Her work included a series of events, attended by over 70 representatives of early childhood services from throughout the New England North West, plus staff from UNE and TAFE New England Institute. These were staged with the assistance of the local branch of Early Childhood Australia.

“The early childcare centres I brought together shared what they were doing, in terms of sustainability. So I established a network through which they were sharing ideas and mentoring each other,” Dr McCrea said. “This award highlights how environment, equity and economic aspects of sustainability can be embedded into early childhood education. For example, children’s physical activity, knowledge of everyday life and access to creative literature can intertwine with edible gardening experiences that also include touching-on advertising, purchasing and packaging.

“Teaching sustainability practices and an appreciation for the environment at a young age is not a new thing,” Dr McCrea added. “Rather, it’s a return to age-old values.

“We’re helping children to establish positive life habits at an early age, rather than trying to affect change later on, in terms of caring for themselves, others and the world they live in,” she said. “We are talking about three-to-five-year-olds being their own sustainable lifestyle advocates. It’s not about scaring them by saying the world will disappear if they don’t do something.”

Dr McCrea hopes her award highlights the importance of early childhood education both at UNE and at other universities.

Dr McCrea is planning a follow-up workshop for the region’s early childhood educators, to be held in mid-2014, using the prize money from her SPROuts Award.

For further information please contact Associate Professor McCrea: 02 6773 2039