Stimulate Your Child’s Curiosity

Eco-Friendly Childcare

Eco-Minded since 1981

sunflower gardensEven before green was the new black, Sunflower Preschool was on the cutting edge. Opening our doors in 1981, we immediately installed an organic garden based on our growing awareness of environmental issues. For the first nine years, we were renting a building and had little options in terms of being green. When we purchased our current home on Dartmouth in 1990, one of the first things we did was plant two crabapple trees in honor of Earth Day.

Now, we can proudly say that we expose our children to the wonders of the natural world every day.

messymaterialssunflowerpreschool_lr-4003A lean to green
Over the years, we’ve gradually upgraded the property into an eco-friendly environment. When implementing property upgrades or remodeling to our 1950s-era building, we’ve chosen options that keep an eye to planet-friendly and child safety.

  • Installation of seven solar tubes that bring natural light to the classroom and saves electricity
  • Tile for flooring instead of petroleum-based linoleum
  • Wool carpets versus traditional carpeting to eliminate off-gassing
  • Non-toxic, natural cleaners and soaps
  • The use of compact florescent lightbulbs (CFLs)) – saving 470 kilowatt-hours per bulb
  • Purchasing supplemental wind energy for electricity each month
  • Achieving the prestigious PACE certification:
  • Energy efficient windows
  • Composting to re-use garden and lunch waste
  • Trex® decking for our deck and ramp
  • Organic gardens
  • An award-winning xeriscape berm to introduce low water use and native plants
  • Conserve water with rain barrels for water play and gardening
  • Edible children’s garden

We recycle and teach the children why recycling is important for the planet. We also reuse whatever we can and our many art projects showcase this practice. Even a toilet paper roll can be transformed into a lovely fall tree when placed in imaginative hands!

Bringing the outdoors in
Our science room was built during the early 1990s using a stone floor hand-picked from a Lyons, CO stonemason. By tying the very foundation of the room directly to our natural world, this sun-filled environment brings the outdoors inside so that children’s exploration of science is further enhanced.

The Nature Explore Certified Outdoor Classroom
The outdoors at Sunflower is a multi-sensory environment with multiple gardens, fruit trees and places for children to play and explore. Debbie Ellman uses her expertise as a master gardener to create organic gardens. Nutrient-rich compost bins utilize various components of the school’s waste (including lunch scraps!) which goes back to the plants cycle. Native, low-water use plants installed on the xeriscape berm offers a mini ecosystem of native plants and herbs. The teachers and children all participate in the growth cycle of plants by using what is grown in cooking and arts and crafts projects.

The berm and organic gardens also provide food, water and shelter for many species of birds and insects – allowing children to learn through observation. Each summer ladybugs are released to eat the aphids (versus using pesticides) while Painted Lady butterflies are observed during metamorphosis and set free into the yard!

The outdoor areas function as a true outdoor classroom- far removed from traditional recess. We foster a love of nature by encouraging large blocks of uninterrupted, multidimensional, sustained play outdoors.  

Reduce, reuse, renew
Recent additions to our outdoor classroom include several rain barrels in the sandbox that collect rainwater for the children to play with. There is also a TrexÆ deck/ramp made from sustainable materials and green manufacturing – including approximately 50 percent recycled and reclaimed plastic and 50 percent reclaimed wood. We also installed a passive-solar multi-use shed that is used as a dress-up area and storage. The newest compost bins were built from redwood reused from our de-constructed deck, and the edible children’s garden beds were built from our old pine sunshade structure.

Garden to snack
The observation of how nature nurtures us is year-round at Sunflower. Besides composting lunch and garden water, the children have an abundance of hands-on activities to participate in: digging in April, planting in May, and harvesting June through August. The anticipation is high in the summer when the organic gardens produce radishes, lettuce, cherries, raspberries, grapes, peaches, and herbs that provide the children with fresh snacks they’ve picked themselves. They also enjoy making beautiful dried arrangements from herbs and flowers. Then, in fall, the pumpkins arrive!

During the winter months we still focus on serving healthy (organic when possible) fruit and vegetable snacks.

Keeping PACE
As a result of our many years of environmental focus, we were honored in 2008 with a PACE (Partners for A Clean Environment)) Accreditation – becoming only the fourth child care facility to receive this distinction since its inception in 2005. This voluntary certification was achieved by using non-toxic cleaning materials, water conservation, recycling and composting and achieving safe levels of lead, carbon monoxide and radon. The PACE certification underscores our commitment to the health of our planet and our children. More information:

Looking to the future
We are proud of our eco-minded history and we look forward to expanding our sustainability footprint. In the next few years we plan to install solar panels and use wind energy for 100 percent of our energy consumption to conserve our natural resources and be a role model for children.