In honor of Earth Month, which was celebrated world-wide in April, Maple House Pre-school in Somerset West added its own special contribution to the international eco-calender, with a Blue Marble Earth Day celebration, on April 28.
“From space, planet earth looks like a big blue glass marble.” This statement was made by the astronauts of the Apollo 17 space mission. One of the crew members took an iconic photo of our earth on December 7, 1972. This picture was called: “The Blue Marble” – and is one of the most widely distributed images in human history.
The week before the special day, Maple House prepared the children by telling them that our precious planet looks blue because of water – and most of our earth is covered with water, and that is why we can live here: our earth is “just right.” We should be so happy to live on our blue marble, as it is currently our only home in space – 70 percent of our earth is in fact covered by beautiful lakes, ponds, rivers, streams, creeks, oceans, estuaries and tide pools.
Part of the tribute, was the decision that everyone came to school dressed up in shades of blue.
However – our beautiful planet comes with limited resources, and this was the main focus.
To raise awareness among the little ones, the questions were asked: How do we tread, touch and live more gently in a delicate place where everything and everyone has to rely on one another?
They now know: it starts in the heart and in your own home, everywhere you go, and impacts on every decision you make.
Does my mommy have to put one onion in a plastic bag after it has been weighed? Or do we take that onion home in its natural state?
The big day finally arrived, and the guest of honor, Freya Brett – the Helderberg Eco Schools coordinator – was welcomed. She arrived, wearing a beautiful shade of deep azure blue.
Awareness activities included laying out the word “earth” and a heart with petals, pebbles, rose quarts, seed pods and flowers.
Exquisite face painting in shades of blue and green made every little one in school feel extra special. The Baby Department (12 months to two years) added a splash of blue by planting in pots, and the children in Junior Phase (two to three years) planted herbs in paper containers that can break down as compost.
Waterwise planting was done by the Senior Phase pupils (three to four, and Grade RR’s) with the guidance of Conrad Marais, a horticulturalist and Maple House dad.
Earth- and recycling projects, a little earth mascot with movable arms and legs, and art were on display, and special certificates were handed out by Ms Brett to thank the little Blue Eco warriors for their enthusiasm.
Some children even brought their own home earth projects along, and all little ones took home a scroll with an eco saying.
The school is proud of its collection of indigenous trees, which includes wild olive trees, wild peach, white stinkwood, a rare white pear, mountain karee trees, (the essential birdie and butterfly garden tree) white waterberry, a Natal plum, a yellowwood, a Cape ash and a river bush willow among others, that are all growing splendidly.
With recent water restrictions being introduced, the school incorporated artificial lawn by the main play garden, but still maintains a small patch of real lawn in a smaller area.
More spekboom and aloes were incorporated and mulching is ongoing. A worm farm and a compost crate is slowly working its magic, the quality of the soil has hugely improved, and they live by Margaret Robert’s organic Supercharger and egg shells.
“We love our leafy environment, the abundance of birds and insect life as it creates endless opportunities for learning. A garden should be like a magnet for children. They belong close to nature and can get completely mesmerised playing with pebbles, feathers, water puddles, seedpods, shells, bark and leaves. Our children love being in the garden with all their senses being bombarded. For this reason, we introduced garden benches – We throw big cushions on them and watch them go. Sometimes even a three-year-old needs a little quiet moment,” said school head Liezel du Toit.
As a pre-school it is their vision for the future to raise awareness, to bring children and nature closer together and to just let them play freely in a healthy environment. In a fast-paced world, where the next generation of custodians of our marble earth have television, tablets, cellphones and any other type of technology readily available, will they still remember how they played in nature and how utterly enjoyable it was?
Creating an environment for them to just be, where they can explore and be in awe, is our biggest accomplishment as a staff and we love every minute of it, said Ms Du Toit.
Ms Brett had the following to say about her visit: “I spent a most rewarding and inspiring morning at Maple House and was astounded as to how well the Blue Marble Earth Day was celebrated with appropriate activities focusing on our beautiful blue planet and its limited resources. I feel that the school’s biggest attribute is the lovely warm and welcoming atmosphere that greets one at the front door – it is a school where little ones can happily spend time and interact with nature, while developing their senses and joy of the world around them.”
* Maple House was chosen as a Best Practise Eco-School in 2012, and rewarded with Platinum Green Status last year. The school is part of a prestigious award programme developed by the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) in 1994. The programme is active in 58 countries and gives recognition to schools that can show that they have improved their environment and play an active role in reducing their environmental footprint.