Developing an Ecological Identity

“To nurture ecological identity in young children, we invite them into relationship with the world beyond walls and with the creatures that live there. We invite them into ethical thinking anchored by the compassion that comes from caring and engaged relationships. We invite them to come home to the Earth and to live honourably in that home.” (Ann Pelo, 2013, p.43).

Our Flinders Philosophy states that:

“We are committed to maintaining our outdoor spaces, placing an emphasis on natural materials to promote a sense of wonder and an understanding of the natural world. We support children developing understandings of sustainability and ways we can actively preserve natural environments; locally, nationally and internationally. We provide resources from natural, renewable sources wherever possible.”

You may wonder ‘what does this look like in practice?’ Here are some ways that Sturt House educators have been enacting our philosophy.

Maintaining Our Outdoor Spaces

For educators, ‘maintaining our outdoor spaces’ not only means ensuring our outdoor spaces are aesthetically pleasing, but more significantly, ensuring outdoor spaces provide opportunities for children to form connections with our natural world. At Sturt House we are currently growing lemon verbena, mint, parsley, broccoli, garlic, spring onion and mandarins. Children watch as these plants grow, measure their progress, notice mini-beasts and developing theories about their worlds.


Educators also invite children to use these plants and herbs in our cooking. Recently we have used our garlic and spring onion as some of our toppings on homemade pizza. We have also invited children to make bread and butter. A small group of children made bread during morning play and then all children helped to make butter from cream at group time. The children used their sight and hearing to observe the changes as cream turned to butter and buttermilk and educators used scientific words like solid and liquid to describe their observations. It took a lot of shaking by all the children and educators to create the change of state so we also reflected on the virtue of determination as we worked. When children cook and prepare food we support them to build an understanding of the interdependence of people and our natural environment.

Developing an Understanding of Sustainability

Children at Sturt House are prolific artists. Paper is a much loved medium for expression; children love to make marks on paper, fold paper to make three-dimensional representations and fold paper to make aeroplanes. As the year has advanced children have used more and more paper in their creations. One day the paper basket was empty since being filled that morning. Rather than seeing this as a problem to be fixed by simply fetching more paper, a wise educator saw this as an opportunity for learning. She posed some questions. Where has all the paper gone? Where does paper come from? How can we solve this problem? This spurred children and educators alike to embark upon our recycled paper project. Children collected used paper from the outside environment and collected scraps from the making space until they had filled a large basket with paper. Next they covered the paper in water, left it to soak, pulped the paper and pressed the mixture to form new paper. We have repeated this process several times. Children at Sturt House are learning to solve their own problems, to recycle our resources and to treat nature with compassion and respect.


Placing an Emphasis on Natural Materials

Whether we are inside and outside, educators consistently incorporate natural materials into play and learning. Invitations for painting are often inspired by the natural world around us, like the beautiful Australian native hakea laurina. A second example is large scale loose parts like logs and branches are open-ended materials that children are able to use in countless different ways. On one occasion in June a small group of children used logs to explore trajectory and velocity as they rolled the logs down the hill. The children needed to use their determination, persistence and gross motor skills to push the heavy logs to the top of the hill. They also did safety checks before rolling the logs, ensuring that their friends were a safe distance away.


We hope this has given you some insight into how we support children to develop an ecological identity and connection to our natural world. We are wondering: what do you do at home to foster your child’s connection to our natural world?



Pelo, A. (2013). The Goodness of Rain: Developing an Ecological Identity in Young Children. Redmond, Western Australia: Exchange Press Inc.

Developing an Ecological Identity

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