I recently caught up with co-directors, husband and wife team Alan and Naziha Daher from Bankstown Childcare Academy. They were searching for sustainability solutions that would help their unique set of challenges specific to the Middle Eastern childcare community. A member of the Backyard Collective for a little over a year now I wanted to check in and understand more about Bankstown Childcare Academy’s sustainability journey.
Alan found the toughest challenge embedding sustainability was around change. ‘With most of the children who attend the service from a Middle Eastern background, sustaining the environment is not a huge factor in their everyday lives.’ Alan goes on to say ‘our toughest challenge are the families. They don’t understand why we have introduced these new learning practices. To them, the environment is not a huge factor in their children’s everyday lives, the more practical activities of learning to read and write is more important.’ Ironically though, ‘most of our parents are very excited about these new additions to the centre and thrilled with the fact that their children haven’t stopped talking about the worms and compost bin.’
This scenario reminds me of a quote from the 1989 movie Field of Dreams which says “If you build it, he will come”. Adapted into a business and education setting it often means, if you build something people will come to use it. ‘The children love the fact that they are looking after the worms by feeding them and keeping them alive. They are starting to understand what the worms can and cannot eat and the difference between the worm farm and the compost bin.”
When it comes to staffing Alan affirms ‘they were a little bit apprehensive at the beginning of the BYC program but are slowly warming up to the idea of the worm farm and compost bin. Alan himself and his staff are all of Middle Eastern background ‘they didn’t like the idea of dealing with food scraps that are usually thrown In the bin, and were not huge fans of touching or dealing with the worms as they believed they were dirty and unhygienic”. This is slowly changing however.
When asked what advice would he would give others embarking on a similar Backyard Collective journey, Alan suggest reading the Educator Guide as ‘it will help give you a better understanding of the program and how to use it.’
Alan has also reflected on his own personal journey. “Things I have learnt from the program is that almost everything we consume can be recycled and reused to help preserve the environment. At home even though I do not have a compost bin all fruit and veggie scraps are being put into the garden bed instead of going straight to the bin”.
The next sustainability steps for Bankstown Childcare Academy include “continued nourishment and improvement of our worm farm and compost bin, and to also continue using the water recycling system”.
Alan confirms he ‘highly recommends the Backyard Collectives Backyard In a Box Program to others “as it has helped both children and staff at the service understand the importance of sustaining the environment and how enjoyable it can be”.
Future plans for the centre include setting up the Backyard in a Box Water Recycling system, to water the centre food gardens and to clean outdoor equipment and during the warmer months to re-introduce water and sand play, ensuring it is being incorporated in the daily routine, program and observations of children.