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Saving the Planet: How to Engage Your Students in Recycling

Thursday, August 11, 2022

Recycled Calendar at House of Doolittle

Teachers are required to instruct students in a variety of subjects and have to use some creativity when introducing new concepts, especially when trying to add some spark to the usual classes. Most students spend time each school day acquiring new skills in language arts, math, and science. These subjects generally start in kindergarten and continue through elementary, middle, and high school. Since they will be immersed in these areas for many years it is important to add variety to hone their critical thinking and problem-solving skills. 

As students are visual learners and often require hands-on, experiential educational activities to drive home new concepts, adding activities around recycling creates a multidisciplinary approach to an important subject- saving the planet. So, look at your favorite recycled calendar and start planning a year of activities and events to include recycling as part of your curriculum. 

Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. 

It is never too early to start young students thinking about being good stewards of our planet Earth. Introducing the concept of recycling and stressing that anyone is capable of incorporating this beneficial activity into daily routines is the perfect way to start students participating in the “three Rs”- reduce, reuse, and recycle. 

Teachers might think it would be difficult to include one more lesson in an already busy schedule, but the advantage of teaching about recycling is that it can be included in many of the subjects children are studying thus reinforcing its impact. All students need inspiration and what better way to achieve this than through learning about doing something that has a positive impact.  

Recycling as Classroom Culture 

Let’s add one more “R”- repetition. If students are introduced to what recycling entails, then they can include it in multiple aspects of their classroom tasks and assignments. There is nothing like doing something over and over to drive home its meaning through related activities. 

In elementary school start with the basics such as each classroom having a fun recycling-themed name, maybe the “Green Machine” or the “Planet Pals,” and choose a weekly recycling leader who “oversees” recycling chores that make the classroom tidy. Help students identify the items that should end up in the trash (used tissues, dirty food containers) and the items that can or should be recycled (newspapers, plastic bottles). Make lists of what can and cannot be recycled and post the lists in the classroom and around the school. Handing out prizes also adds incentive to learning and completing tasks.  

Elementary School Classroom Activities: 

• Language Arts- Make vocabulary lists of words associated with recycling and use them in sentences. 

• Math- Count how many items can and cannot be recycled. Ask students which ones are the biggest, the heaviest, or can produce more new items.  

• Science- Plant seeds from a lunch orange or apple and watch them grow into new plants. 

• Art- Create colorful signs to indicate which are the trash containers and which are the recycling containers.  

• Extracurricular or Homework- Encourage students to tell parents and other family members about the importance of recycling.  

Once students advance to middle school, recycling terminology, processes, and activities can be more complex and experiential. As math and science become more complicated, incorporate recycling information into lessons. Have students create projects that identify items that can be recycled and what, once they are recycled, kind of items they become. Students can also initiate recycling campaigns that are school-wide to broaden the recycling culture. 

Middle School Classroom Activities:     

• Language Arts- Have students write short essays or stories related to recycling. 

• Math- Create story problems about the exponential impact of recycling.  

• Science-Do simple experiments like using recycled paper to make new paper.  

• Art- Design posters that can be placed around the school encouraging recycling and indicating what can and can’t be recycled.  

• Extracurricular or Homework- Start a recycling club and work with students to document areas of the school that could be improved by increasing what gets recycled.  

High schools present even more opportunities for recycling education and activities. These students can be recycling advocates in the school and the community. Students are tech-savvy and social therefore capitalizing on these characteristics can provide an enormous wealth of opportunities to advance a recycling agenda. 

High School Classroom Activities: 

• Language Arts- Assign letter-writing or op-ed pieces that can be disseminated to local government and local media.  

• Math- Assign a statistical analysis project to evaluate the school’s recycling efforts. 

• Science- Create a “mini-landfill” experiment to track the decomposition of assorted items. 

• Art- Create social media accounts using student videos about the benefits of recycling. 

• Extracurricular or Homework- Encourage fundraising recycling drives at local recycling centers and give the collected donations to related nonprofits. 

Lead by Example 

Students look up to teachers and want to emulate what inspires them. Make sure students know that you adhere to, and practice reducing, reusing, and recycling. Tell them that an eco-friendly calendar hangs on the wall and a recycled calendar sits on your desk. Make a list of all the items you personally recycle and ask them to do the same.  

Recycling instruction and implementation can begin for even the youngest students. Their participation can help them shape positive environmental habits that can last a lifetime, which in turn can help maintain the life of our planet.  

Do you need ideas for items like recycled calendars and eco-friendly day planners as well as other classroom supplies that reinforce the concept of recycling? Shop all of our recycled academic products today! 

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