A strong focus on sustainability has led to a transformation of the outdoor area at Gowrie Victoria Carlton Learning Precinct.

The early learning service, which has only been operating for about three years, is working to create a natural haven that inspires curiosity, imagination, and an awareness of our impact on the environment.

Centre manager Alistair Gibbs says the central outdoor space, which is open to the children every day, rain or shine, is not as established as some of the other sprawling gardens at Gowrie’s early learning services.

“It’s encouraging us to think a bit more creatively, about how we can connect with our philosophies and utilise what we have in the space,” Alistair says.

This creative thinking can be seen throughout the outdoor play area in the use of rocks, sand, timber and recycled materials. A garden ‘bed’ for growing vegies has been crafted from an actual old bed frame, filled with soil. Recycled palettes, pots and tyres have been turned into planters for herbs and native plants, while blank walls and fences have been decorated with hanging plants in milk cartons and colourful mobiles created from recycled materials.

Educator Lucy Hattink has started the year with a strong focus on First Nations perspectives and sustainability. “The children in Golden Wattle room have been particularly interested in fire pits and we’ve had many discussions around the cultural significance of fire pits for First Nations peoples,” Lucy says. “This has led us in creating a pretend fire pit for our yard that we can call our meeting place.”

Children worked together to turn a repurposed car tyre into a work of art resembling a fire pit. “The children have been busy using paper mâché to cover the tyre, giving it a surface we can paint,” Lucy says. “From here, children painted it bright orange, red and yellow. To finish the experience, we came up with the idea to paint some sticks, acting as the burning fire.”

A herb garden has also been planted in recycled cardboard boxes to add greenery to the meeting place. “These projects have a core focus on sustainability, and we have been working on embedding this in everything we do,” Lucy says.

This strong ethos of sustainability can be seen embedded into the program through concepts such as the Recycle Station, where children can source old cardboard boxes, cartons and other materials for their play and art. A compost bin for all suitable food scraps has also been introduced, with children involved in its upkeep and using the compost to build up garden beds.