Green flags will be flying high over pre-schools in Westmeath as the county’s pioneering toddlers and their carers become among the first in the country to receive the coveted environmental award.
More than 300 under-sixes, waving their own green flags and recycled tops and hats turned up at the Bloomfield House Hotel, Mullingar on Wednesday to get their just reward for learning to recycle, reduce waste, water, and energy in their schools and homes.
The 14 pre-schools were united in the Green Flag quest after Muriel Flynn, coordinator of Westmeath Community Childcare Committee decided 18 months ago that there had to be a better way to manage waste in pre-schools.
The idea came to her after she saw the volume of photocopied material one pre-school was sending to parents.
Now parents receive photos and information by email and children reuse paper and plastics.
The programme they developed ties in with Aistear, the pre-school curriculum and it’s “very simple, very user friendly”, she said.
Chairman of An Taisce John Harnett said looking at the sea of tiny ‘Greenies’ as some of them called themselves, brought a smile to his face.
“It’s really an amazing time to get them to understand about the environment and about how they actually have an effect on the bigger environment and their own environment that they go to school in or go home to,” he said.
“Today is evidence of the success of this and the interest that both the parents and the carers have to really get involved in this,” he said, adding that there was no reason why the project shouldn’t expand across the country.
Children at Rathganny Preschool were delighted to be at the ceremony, and were well able to explain what they do for the environment.
Matthew Thornton described how they got their green flag by recycling in school, and Jake O’Neill explained that recycling means making things out of cardboard and other rubbish, and how you shouldn’t leave the lights on when you’re not in class.
Tia Brunkard said it’s important not to litter anywhere to help the environment.
Daniel Coffey said they recycle their food for the donkeys in their school, and they like potato peelings, apple skins, crusts, and carrots.
Madeleine O’Neill, proprietor of Rathganny Preschool said the children were enthusiastic about recycling, and bringing in their old materials to use in arts and crafts.
“It was great. We found that they enjoyed it so much that they were actually teaching the parents when they went home, so they picked up a lot. “They enjoyed it and they understood what they did because we kept it very basic. We enjoyed it immensely,” she said.