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Preschool sows seeds of eco-living

Flourishing initiative: Stepping Stone Preschool children gather for the tree-planting ceremony as part of the Eco-Schools Accreditation Programme

A “fantastic” environmental initiative is flourishing at the Stepping Stones Preschool, one of ten local schools aiming to get certified under the international Eco-Schools Accreditation Programme.

As the first preschool to get involved, Stepping Stones held a tree-planting ceremony on Saturday afternoon, with students singing a song about protecting the Earth for a gathering of parents and community members.

The school chose an endemic Olivewood tree, donated by the group Save Open Spaces.

The Eco-Schools’ initiative, which is run by Abbie Caldas of the local environmental group Greenrock, has proven to be “something that the whole school can be proud of, as their actions have improved their environment”, Ms Caldas said.

“These parents and teachers have shown their commitment to the children by enhancing their learning and improving their environment. It has been a fantastic initiative and is by no means over, as the next challenge is to maintain the achievements and look towards ways of improving even further and inspiring others to join them.”

The programme, in use in 60 countries, is directed at positively influencing long-term behaviour on the topic of environmental sustainability.

Eco-Schools guides institutes such as Stepping Stones on subjects ranging from energy and water use through healthy living, waste, transport and global citizenship.

In its bid to raise a green flag, the Devonshire school has adopted the motto “Healthy living is one of our Stepping Stones to success” as its “eco-code”, and is applying for the level one Green Seed Award.

Stepping Stones met with Ms Caldas a year ago to join the programme, believing it would suit the school’s small community of 52 children and their families.

Much of preschool activity centres on exploration and meaningful play. The school chose to adopt the Healthy Living pathway as a theme that preschoolers aged two to four could best relate to.

After launching the theme, the school examined areas of improvement in nutrition, water and exercise. Stepping Stones provided fruit for the children’s morning snack, and encouraged parents to pack more fruit, vegetables and whole grains for snacks and lunch, as well as changing its hot lunch options. Youngsters were also encouraged to drink more water.

The school’s Eco-Committee met monthly to assess the initiatives and solicited parental feedback. Teachers worked themes of healthy eating and well-being into lessons, and incorporated more movement into their teaching.

With the completion of their first step celebrated at the tree-planting, Stepping Stones is to choose its next pathway, and after finishing those seven steps it will apply for its Green Flag accreditation.

Parent Tash Pethick voiced pride in her membership at the school’s eco-team.

“We have been working together to implement better procedures,” she said. “We’ve improved the hot lunches provided once a week from a hot dog to pasta, veggies and protein. The children have been so receptive and love the new food.

“We’ve boosted the presence of healthy living in the curriculum as it is never too early to learn how to be healthy.”

Aside from enjoying their new meals, the young students are picking up “great habits that will hopefully last them a lifetime”, Ms Pethick said.

Kristan Burch, a teacher at the preschool, called the initiative “an exciting journey thus far”.

“Stepping Stones is looking forward to navigating on to the next pathway,” she said.

Both the school and Eco-Schools Bermuda are on Facebook, and details on the programme are provided at www.greenrock.org or www.eco-schools.org