At first glance, nothing suggests that behind this gate hides an eco-friendly nursery. The Moulin Neuf departmental crèche, in Stains, resembles others: the main play area, then three separate rooms for children, medium and large, each with a hygiene area. But the green is hidden in the details: the approach taken by Patricia Charpentier’s teams was indeed rewarded in 2020 with the Ecolo crèche® label. It is allocated to childcare establishments according to very specific criteria with regard to children’s nutrition, hygiene, or even supervision, and which promote the protection of the environment.
When we ask the director about obtaining this label, she does not seem to realize that her approach is still rare: “These are small everyday things, nothing revolutionary! However, here, children can garden in the vegetable garden, the supervisory teams make homemade cleaning products and the emphasis is on wooden games as well as recycling. Initiatives that go in the direction of the development of the 60 children received. Early childhood is a key moment: with natural products, therefore less harmful, we protect children, who are still fragile. And promoting children’s access to environments that make room for nature is beneficial for their psychomotor development.
Nature at the heart of the project
“Our project is really to put children back in contact with nature. We educate them through drawings with tree leaves, activities around natural elements… ”, says Patricia Charpentier. Especially those who live, like here in Stains, in very urban basins. Through the window, we discover a huge outdoor space, not in plastic covering but made of grass. Small tables are set up here and there: “When the weather and temperatures allow it, we try to make them eat or taste it outside”, specifies the director. But what catches our eye is this round enclosure, right in the middle of the garden: “It’s the old sandbox, which was more of a bacteria nest than anything else… We transformed it into a vegetable garden, which is cultivated by the children themselves, ”she adds. Another space behind the building is also cultivable… and cultivated: “Here, we focus on fruits and flowers. We can have strawberries, raspberries… We tried kiwis too, but it’s a little more difficult to grow! », She laughs. As proof that the project concerns the whole team, two carers who have gardening skills are in charge of these spaces: “They even sometimes bring cuttings from their own garden”, admits the director. Some cultures are then directly cooked on-site for children’s meals.
Hygiene and green food
Moreover, in the ecological approach at Stains, we insist a lot on food, to the delight of the cook. “We do not produce sufficient quantities to make all the meals, but when this is the case, we can really speak of a short circuit,” she smiles. For the rest of the races, it must be supplied in the catalogs of the department’s suppliers: “We try to stick as well as possible to the seasons while respecting the costs, but we can go further,” says the director, who believes that at lunchtime, organic products represent around 35% of children’s diets. A little further, in the bathroom, “no wipes and a maximum of natural products”, congratulates Patricia Charpentier. On the wall is displayed the recipe for the house liniment, a mixture of olive oil and artisanal lime water. In the cupboards, household products made on-site, “based on bicarbonate, white vinegar, and organic essential oils”, we are told. At this time, however, due to the increased risk of contamination from Covid-19, the director has had to accept the return of certain industrial products. This is particularly the case with the antibacterial gel and certain virucides, which had completely disappeared.