Clean Up Australia Day inspires sustainability & fun

Library Home  >  Arts, Crafts and Activity IdeasSustainability
  Published on Tuesday, 25 February 2020

Clean Up Australia Day inspires sustainability & fun

Library Home  >  Arts, Crafts and Activity IdeasSustainability
  Published on Tuesday, 25 February 2020

Clean Up Australia Day is iconic and has the power to inspire and teach young children about waste issues, sustainability and how to take care of the environment. In 2020 Clean Up Australia Day is on Sunday, 1 March and the Schools and Youth Clean Up event will run on Friday, 28 February. This week easy ways to participate as an early childhood service. 

According to Clean Up Australia Chairman Pip Kiernan, Australia creates 2.5 million tonnes of plastic waste each year. Only 12 per cent of this is recycled, with the rest ending up in our parks, roadsides, bush, waterways, and oceans or in landfill as rubbish.

Every year thousands of Australians take to their local park, beach, bushland and streets to clean up some of this waste from local environments. Involving young children engages them in how to make a difference within the environment and their community. 

Marking its 30-year anniversary, Clean Up Australia is the nation's largest community-based mobilisation event. Last year more than 680,000 volunteers removed 15,000 truck loads of rubbish from the 6,901 registered locations across the country and around 2,240 preschools and primary schools were involved in Schools Clean Up Day.

Today the scope of the group goes well beyond its popular one-day event and the focus is shared between preventing rubbish entering the environment as well as removing what has already accumulated.  

Why teach young children the importance of reducing, reusing and recycling?

Children have an important role to play in the future of our planet and empowering them with knowledge about the environment through play-based learning and hands-on activities can instil amazement and delight for nature. 

Australia’s quality standards call for early childhood services to consider ways in which they care for the environment and support children to become environmentally responsible and Clean Up Australia is the ideal time to focus on encouraging children to reduce, reuse and recycle (three Rs) and to teach them about sustainability. 

In a recent article in The Spoke, Dr Sue Elliot, a senior lecturer in Early Childhood Education at the University of New England said, ‘Education for sustainability is about change, change in the ways all species co-habit with the Earth. Change can be difficult, but as early childhood educators the best interests of children, both their current options and their futures, are foremost in our daily roles. As educators we need to understand why change is urgently needed and how we can advocate and act for sustainable futures for all.’

Identifying education as the vehicle for transformative change Dr Elliot highlighted a statement in the UN’s Decade of Education for Sustainable Development Report (UNESCO, 2014), which says: ‘Young children are both current and future citizens with already existing capabilities to shape sustainable societies. Investments to build their awareness, values, knowledge and capacity for sustainable development will serve to set the world on more sustainable pathways now and into the future.’

How to get involved in Clean Up Australia Day 

By using the momentum of Clean-Up Australia early childhood educators can embed sustainable education and practices within their services to give children greater awareness and appreciation of the environment while teaching them small ways they can care for it. Here are some ideas for participating in Clean Up Australia Day this year.  

Sign up for Schools Clean Up Day on Friday, 28 February 

Organise your School Clean Up Day by enlisting your early childhood centre and invite parents and children. Just follow the registration process online and you’ll be sent a free Clean Up Kit including bags, gloves, information and promotional materials. 

The website has a step-by-step Clean-Up Tool Kit with all of the required paperwork including a risk assessment form, volunteer registration and digital resources.  

Choose a location nearby such as a park or take preschool aged children for a walk around the block to learn about rubbish, picking up some up along the way. Consider setting up a crèche area for the youngest children and you could ask volunteers to bring a plate for a picnic or organise a BBQ. Make it a fun day.

Sensory and play-based learning activities

Clean Up Australia and Cool Australia have teamed up to create some incredible educational resources to engage students in sustainability education. While this information is geared for primary aged children and older, Cool Australia also includes some excellent free online resources created specifically for early learning.

Register online at Cool Australia to access fun and engaging activities that include EYLF Learning Outcomes and Elaborations and an Educators Worksheet to guide the activity. Here are specific projects relevant to Clean Up Australia Day. 

Creative sustainability – The art of waste 

Children investigate how waste materials can be creatively reused. This activity is designed to help connect children to the wonders of the natural world through sensory and play-based learning.

Bright Sparks – What is recycling?

This is an introduction to recycling. Younger children use their senses to investigate different types of paper and cardboard, working to sort the paper and cardboard based on size, weight and texture. Older children are invited to consider what ‘recycling’ means, and think about how objects that go into the recycling bin can be turned into new items.

Bright Sparks – What goes in that bin? 

Children become detectives to discover why we have different types of bins for our waste. Younger children are invited to view a range of familiar objects and waste materials and decide which of these belong in the bin. Older children will sort a range of waste materials into different bins, including rubbish, recycling, and compost, worm or chook bins.

Enviroweek waste warrior

This is an opportunity to learn more about the 3 Rs. Students will take action to reduce their waste footprint and they’ll love the upbeat Jack Johnson’s song “The 3 Rs”.

Lead by example and reduce waste this Clean Up Australia Day

Many early childhood centres have already embedded sustainable measures in their services such as water tanks, solar panels, compost bins and recycling.  It is important to build on these and think about other clean, green and environmentally friendly initiatives to share with children.

Regardless of where you are in Australia you can learn from the ‘waste warrior’ program, which includes initiatives to significantly reduce business waste. Produced by NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) and Bin Trim, this ‘how to’ guide for preschools and child care centres can help maximise recycling and minimise waste to landfill. This article by the Aussie Childcare Network also offers some practical advice and simple ideas for positive environmental action.

References and further reading

Every Child Magazine
25 Books that teach kids to care about the environment by Huffpost 

This child care article was last reviewed or updated on Monday, 24 February 2020