Category Archives: Keen to be Green

Birgit’s Nature Mandalas

Wenn ihr spazieren geht und in der Natur seid koennt ihr doch mal versuchen Mandalas zu machen. Es gibt viele Dinge mit denen man kreativ sein kann. Zum Beispiel: Blumen, Baumrinde, Blaetter, kleine Aeste.

When you go for a walk out in nature (or as our indigenous friends say, when you are “on country”), it is fun to be creative by making natural mandalas. You can try using flowers, bark, leaves, grasses, small sticks or anything you find.

To be even more keen-to-be-green, try to use objects that have already fallen to the ground rather than picking fresh flowers and living leaves .

It can also be fun to use these natural objects to make ladybird playgrounds with slides and mazes, or tiny decorated fairy tents.

Here are some of Birgit’s beautiful nature mandalas

Getting Greener

The IPCC report has been published for 2021 and it is clear that humans have not been doing enough to halt climate change. We have made many “green” changes at Spielwelt, won environmental awards, and implemented our Keen-to-be-Green initiative.

As a parents association responsible for our children’s future, we applaud the ACT government’s efforts, and although we are just one of many organisations in Canberra, we feel we must ramp up our efforts further. We all should. And can.

“I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.” – Edward Everett Hale

The place we can make the biggest difference is in education (our specialty!) and leading by example.

Starting straight away, we will:

  1. Decommission the children’s fridge, and have children store their food in their insulated lunch bags (like in schools).
  2. Encourage meat-free days.
  3. Offer more vegetarian options at our special events.
  4. No longer use plastic googly-eyes, craft pompoms, foam stickers and plastic stickers in craft, as they are non-biodegradable.
  5. Encourage families to walk or ride to school where possible.
  6. Ban little plastic toys (like the little collectible toys used in supermarket or restaurant promotions) and educate children about why we don’t want them. (If children bring them to school, they will need to leave the toys in their bags.)
  7. Run two toy swaps per year.
  8. Run two clothing swaps per year.
  9. Ensure Nikolaus gifts, Mothers- and Fathers- Day gifts are “green”.
  10. Educate and encourage children to use the backs of paper as well as the front; and using recycled paper.
  11. Replace wet-wipes with reusable cloth wipes.
  12. Replace sponges with reusable cleaning cloths.
  13. Gradually replace as many of our plastic sand toys with metal or wooden pots or implements from the GreenShed.
  14. Replace our many plastic playdough implements with a few simple wooden ones.
  15. Replace our double-plastic-wrapped rice crackers (that we give to children who are still hungry even after eating all their lunch) with similar products in more friendly packaging.

We are further committing to:

  1. Install ceiling fans to make our heating and cooling more efficient.
  2. Provide a reusable yogurt container to each family and strongly discourage single-use yogurt pouches and plastic tubs. (We already provide a bees wax wrap to each child, in their Schultüte, and discourage cling-film.)
  3. Examine how we can reduce any excess use (or waste) of soap, by changing soap formats and educating children on proper use.
  4. Explore options for environmentally friendlier cleaning products.
  5. Teach our scouts about the mountains of waste caused by toothpaste packaging, and ask our scouts if they would like to try making Zero Waste Toothpaste.

Igelchen and Echidna Lesson

The little echidna pictured at the top of this blog lives in Canberra. I took a little video for the children, showing the echidna walking along. She has short bent legs, and it reminded me of a German children’s song about a hedgehog (ein Igel). Hedgehogs and echidnas look quite similar.

Here is my very silly Igelchen action song video (5 min) which includes a little chat, an action song, a silly story and a very simple craft.  

There’s also an Igelchen colouring sheet for you to download and print.

 If you want to sing along to the song, here are the lyrics:

Igelchen, Igelchen, schau in dein Spiegelchen,
Deine Beine sind krumm!
Igelchen, Igelchen, schau in dein Spiegelchen,
Deine Beine sind kurz!

Sind meine Beine auch krumm,
Dreh’ ich mich trotzdem herum!
Sind meine Beine auch kurz,
ist mir das piepe und schnurz!

Bohnenblumen: Bean Flowers

Spring is in the air and flowers are starting to appear! Maybe you can make flowers appear inside your house too…

Join GAP Teacher Gerda in making some beautiful flowers and hearts using beans and lentils! Click on the link to download / watch the video.

As you know, we love art and craft using natural and recycled items!

The educational value here is developing fine motor skills, art and creativity, counting, colours, and the concept of symmetry, if you like.

You can download Gerda’s Bohnenblumen instructions (in German and English) to augment your educational experience by reading aloud and following instructions in German, and be inspired by some of her example pieces.

Please supervise and/or discuss safety with children, as we have heard stories of children putting beans up their noses… and nobody wants that to happen!

Natural objects like beans and lentils make great things to glue to your art work!
Glue on your stem and leaf, and then clutter (ähm! I mean decorate) your house with your beautiful creation!

Once you have made your flower, try some of the variations below.

Variation 1: You could also decorate other shapes (see our activity about learning geometric shapes).

Variation 2: Hunt around the house and garden for other little objects to glue on: grass, pine needles, tiny flowers, wool, cereal, pasta shapes…

Try different shapes!

Nudelkette – Pasta Necklace

This wearable craft activity has it all — fine motor skills, threading, patterns, colours, counting and shapes.

You can make a cool Nudelkette (pasta chain for a necklace, bracelet or anklet) at home with pasta and string or wool. If you like, you can even colour your pasta with coloured markers/textas. You can download Gerda’s Nudelkette instructions in German (with English translations) here.

If you don’t have noodles at home, you can substitute cereal like Cheerios (or order suitable pasta for your next click-and-collect / home delivery of groceries!)

Tip: To make threading less frustrating, wrap some tape around the threading end of your wool to make it stiffer and easier to poke through a noodle. Tape up a little bit more wool than your longest noodle (about 5cm, say).

We especially like that the craft items are all biodegradable and reusable (except for the sticky tape, sorry).

Looking forward to seeing your crafty creations on a future online meeting, perhaps!

Nature Arm Bands

Here’s a fun activity to do on your one-hour walk or in your backyard, brought to you by our lovely GAP teacher, Birgit. It is another opportunity to appreciate nature. (Try to limit your collection to items that have already fallen to the ground though, rather than taking leaves from trees or plucking flowers that nature is still using.)

Natur Armband

Einfach ein breites Stueck Abdeckband (masking tape) um deine Hand oder den Fuss geben. Die klebrige Seite sollte aussen sein. Wenn ihr dann spazieren geht koennt ihr es mit Blumen, Blaettern, Baumrinde, usw. verzieren.

Nature Arm Band

Take a piece of masking tape (as wide as you can) and wrap it around your wrist or ankle, with the sticky side out. When you go on your walk, you can decorate your arm band with little flowers, leaves, bark, etc., that you find on the way.

Treasure Hunt Boxes

Looking for a fun activity to do while you are on your “allowed one hour of outdoor exercise” with your child?

Eager to learn/maintain your German? Keen to be green and ready to recycle household waste and then be attentive to the natural world around you? Want an activity involving both fine and gross motor skills?

GAP teacher Gerda has the perfect activity for you: a nature treasure hunt in German (with translations)!

You will need a box to keep your natural treasures in. In German, it’s called a Naturschatzkiste. Natur as in nature; Schatz as in treasure (Germans sometimes call each other Schatz); and all the children will know Kiste from our daily Raetselkiste.

You will need: an egg carton (der Eierkarton), scissors (die Schere), glue (der Kleber). Optional: crayons / pencil crayons (die Wachsmalstifte / die Buntstifte).

Step 1: Draw your own version of the pictures below, or download this sheet and change “Gerdas” to your child’s name (one letter at a time to keep the rainbow effect), then print it.

Quick German lesson:
In English, we write: Gerda’s (with an apostrophe then the letter s)
In German, we write: Gerdas (no apostrophe) except when the name ends in s, in which case we write: Lars’ or James’ (with an apostrophe after the s).

You can download this here and print it, or draw your own.

Step 2: If you drew your own, you can colour it in.

Step 3: Glue your name to the top of the box, like this:

Glue your name and box title to the top of the egg carton

Step 4: Glue your list of things to find into the top of the lid, like this:

Glue your Things-to-Find table into the top of the egg carton lid

Step 5: Dress for the weather and out you go on your Spaziergang (walk) or into your backyard for your nature treasure hunt. It might take you a few outings to complete your box, which is great!

Here is Gerda’s Naturschatzkiste so far, from this morning

Teacher’s Tip 1: Unless your child is ready for the extra lesson of getting their object into the corresponding slot in the egg carton, don’t worry about that… your child will still be getting good educational value from this activity no matter which slot they choose to put their treasure in. The hunt and the language are the goals here.

Teacher’s Tip 2: You can refresh and reuse this activity with different themes by changing the things to look for.

Note For Those In Quarantine: This activity can be adapted for those looking to enjoy their confinement … You can look for tiny toys, erasers, paper scraps in different shapes (circle, triangle, square, oval), objects of different colours (rot, blau, gelb, orange), fruit pips or bits of orange peel, something soft, something hard, something round, something spiky, and so on.

Excursion to Capital Scraps Community Compost

The Monday-Tuesday GAP children enjoyed an excursion to the Capital Scraps Community Compost in Haig Park, today.

With the help of many parent helpers, we walked through Haig Park, then crossed Northbourne Avenue to the Braddon side of Haig Park, and within a few short meters, we arrived at the community compost collection point.

Brook of Capital Scraps met us there on her customised e-bike with a wagon on the front, which she and other volunteers use to collect scraps from the community.

We talked about what can and can’t go into a compost heap, and then opened the lid on the big composter. There was water on the inside of the lid. Was it raining inside the box? No! It was condensation from the steam coming off the compost heap.

We got to climb up Brook’s little steps to peer into the top of the compost and see all the leaves and feel the heat of the pile.

We gathered up all the scraps we had brought from home.

Brook then prepared a bit of a bed of partially composted leaves for our scraps.

We put our scraps on top, then covered them with more partially composted leaves and shreds of egg cartons that we helped to tear into little pieces.

Brook turned the compost with a pitch-fork, and we could see that down inside the compost pile even hard things like acorns had started to crack open and decompose. If we come back in a few weeks, we should see some nice compost that we could use to help our garden plants grow.

It was very interesting to hear about how it worked, and why community composting is important for the environment.

Thanks to Brook, and also to the many parents who accompanied us on our excursion today! We are very grateful.

Calypso Visits GAP

The Monday/Tuesday GAP class have been studying animals, and we were delighted to welcome a couple of our families’ pets.

First up was Calypso, a friendly bearded dragon belonging to one of our GAP families. The children got to pat Calypso (very gently) and hear about what bearded dragons like to eat, how they stay warm, how they spend their days and nights, and other interesting things. We learned you can’t just take a bearded dragon from the wild and make it your pet – you should talk to the Canberra Reptile Zoo.

We were also quite fascinated to see Calypso eat some insects and greenery that had been bought especially as reptile food. Calypso isn’t fed insects from the garden in case they have taken up poisonous insecticides, which we think is not very good for the environment or for bearded dragons in the wild.

We thought it was great when Calypso was allowed to walk around on a leash on our colourful carpet!

Caring for the Environment in Space

The MondayTuesday GAP class had a fascinating presentation by Dr Doris Grosse today. Dr Grosse brought in a satellite to show us, and using a model rocket she built, she showed us how it launched into space. What was most surprising, however, was how much space junk was left behind in the process. Dr Grosse is working with other scientists to figure out how to clean up the environment… in space! We all agreed that was an important (and very cool) job!

Here is the rocket before launch. Of course, we liked seeing the European Space Agency logo on it! 🙂

To get a satellite up into space, we need a rocket to take it there. Here is our rocket on the GAP launch pad, ready for lift off. We all helped Dr Grosse to count down from ten (in German, of course), and then “blast off”!

To lift off, the rocket burns a lot of fuel, and that tumbles back down to Earth or goes into the atmosphere. This was simulated with crumpled paper dropping out of the bottom of the cylindrical rocket engines.

Look at all the burnt fuel from our rocket and the toxic chemicals that ended up in our beautiful blue ocean!

Then the rocket booster stages themselves are jettisoned and land in the ocean too.

Once the rocket gets up even higher, the nose cone, the second booster stage and the upper stage rocket body are released into space, where they remain in orbit. The satellite is put into its orbit around the Earth giving us data and communications.

We learned that satellites are very handy, as they allow us to video chat with Oma and Opa in Deutschland over Skype or Whatsapp, for example.

We all helped Dr Grosse to find and pick up all the space junk created by our launch and clean it away. Just like on Earth, if everyone helps, we will keep our environment nice and clean.

The photo at the very top of the blog shows a double cube satellite, with some sample electronics in it. We had a closer look at that tiny satellite, and the children wondered if we could also use it to find aliens…

We love having parents visit us at GAP and telling us about their work or hobbies. Let the teachers know if you’d like to come in!