Sustainability: Hughenden Kindy & Early Childhood Centre

Hughenden Kindergarten and Early childhood centre

Practitioner: Donna Jardine

Service name: Hughenden Kindergarten and early childhood centre

Location:  Hughenden, QLD, 4821

Title: Sustainability

What is our motivation for the practice change?

In September 2011, our centre went through the assessment rating. When the assessor asked about our sustainability practices, I was not sure how to answer as I did not understand what it was supposed to look like. There is no other centre in our area to liaison with and share practices. This is where our story about sustainability began. We knew about recycling and being careful with water usage etc.  The question was asked: “What it looks like and what it means to our little centre?” We had a basic policy but really did not understand what it meant.

What were you hoping to change?

I knew I needed to change our mind set on what sustainability was really all about. It is not all about the environment and recycling, it needed to be about sustaining regular staff and the centre as a whole in many areas. Being a small centre and a standalone service in a small community, we faced many different types of challenges, as in keeping our fees affordable, but being able to sustain the centre financially. At this stage we were struggling, as a lot of people had left because of the drought and no work in the town, which resulted in a huge drop of enrolments at the centre. 

What is our practise?

We began with meetings, talking to other people outside of the centre and putting the question to them, “What does it mean and look like to be a sustainable service?” We had to cut back on many areas at the centre. We all pulled together to take on extra duties to make sure we had an open door.

We came up with the idea of starting a veggie patch, but the problem was where and how. We had a garden underneath one of the large trees but it would not grow as it was not sunny enough in the winter months and too hot in the summer.

It was decided to change the garden bed to a spot which receives the morning sun in winter, not to worry about it in the summer because of the harsh summer climate. The ground was so hard and dry (heavy clay) we needed a jack hammer to make a small mark in it. This is where the idea of making garden beds from recycled tyres, they became our no dig gardens. It was successful in 2015 and we were so surprised it work and our children enjoyed watching and eating what we had grown.

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Second step, we cannot use a lot of water as the shire has been in severe drought going on for 4 years. We collected lots of loose parts we have an old sink for water and a large container for the sandpit so the children would still be able to have mud (no running hoses). We have taught the children one bucket of water each, so they can understand about not wasting the water and how precious it is.

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We have cut down on power so the electricity account is not too high as much as we can, but in the summer months it is difficult due to the heat. We turn off lights and air-conditioning when not in use, all taps have timers to prevent water wastage and cut down on the use of paper towels.  In some areas, we are using cotton hand towels that are washed daily/weekly with warm soapy water. With the assistance of the hot Hughenden sun, germs and other bacteria cannot grow due to the harsh heat that occurs all year round.

Reflections on our practise?

A couple of years later, the journey has been very interesting and educational. It has made us all realise that sustainability isn’t just about caring for the environment; it’s also about ensuring the survival of the centre and surroundings, because if we do not care for it now ten years later it may not be here. We have no outside support, we support ourselves and this has been the biggest learning journey for us. The town is in hardship and because of this we do not charge huge fees so we can support the families as there is not a lot of work within the district.

IMG_7771_convertedAs a small team we all work together to make sure we use everything in a manner that sustains the centre, we believe in reduce, recycle, reuse in our everyday practise.  I know and understand you have to be able to sustain yourself so you can sustain the staff, families, the children and the centre together. Then sustaining the environment is a flow on effect for the future.

What were your success and challenges?

Our veggie patch in 2015 worked very well is was so much fun and the children took owner ship of it. They were very proud to take their mum or dad by the hand each morning and show it to them. The best part was having the children have ago at harvesting the snow peas or carrots and tomatoes straight from the garden. We had many losses as in the corn, beetroot, and other veggies we tried to grow.

Being in Hughenden is a big challenge as the climate is very harsh and hardly any rain, then when we did get rain the bugs came to life and they eat everything in sight. Therefore, any fresh grass that does happen to grow, is quickly devoured. But the children enjoy our big trees and all of bugs, we see lots of birds and lots of caterpillars and then the beautiful butterflies. The bad outweighs the good.

I have tried twice to apply for grant money to have no dig gardens instead of the old tyres and a good watering system, both times it has been unsuccessful. This has been my goal to have about 4 to 6 no dig gardens and a good system for watering, one day it will be successful we just have to keep trying each year. With all of the staff working together in late 2015 we are able to turn the centre around to be in a better financially.

Where to now?

Going into 2016 we are all still working here so the children have the same faces each morning to greet them, it is only the children who have changed because of going to school or leaving the town, and we have lots of new families attending the centre which is wonderful. We had a small amount of rain and the weather is starting to cool, and the grasshoppers are not as bad. We have planted a herb garden in an old wooden pallet, and it is growing.

Our garden for 2016 is starting to grow, we have planted pumpkins, snow peas, tomatoes and carrots. If our pumpkins grow we wanted to make pumpkin soup for the children so they can see it come from the garden into the pot.IMG_7772_converted

I will just keep trying to access grant money for our no dig gardens for 2017.

When we go through assessment again we all have the confidence to say, yes we are sustainable and we all know what it looks like.

Going deeper?

Well not too sure how much deeper we can go, apart from just trying our best each day and keep pushing the centre forward in all areas. Maybe next summer, we might get good rain and the town will be a busy place again. Let’s just wait and see and investigate more ideas and come up with plans that suit this centre.

Supporting documents

Environmental Sustainability Policy- Hughenden Kindergarten & ECC 2016

Bunnings rewards sustainability efforts of Hughenden Kindy & ECC

ECW would like to acknowledge Bunnings Fairfield Waters store in Townsville QLD for their generous donation of 2 Garden beds 2.2m long and approx. 1.4m high along with a black pipe snap lock irrigation system and Bunnings gardening aprons for all of the children at Hughenden Kindergarten and Early Education Centre.


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