Ashelyn Redman is an elementary school teacher at Fleetwood Elementary in Lethbridge, Alberta. She agreed to speak as a spokesperson for the elementary school, to highlight the amazing projects and role that recycling plays in the education of the students attending the school. The school has multiple recycling bins located in each boot room, near the entrances and exits that are used most frequently by the students. Rarely will you find recyclable materials accidentally thrown out in garbage cans. Students have become used to the idea of recycling or reducing waste production whenever possible. As an example, Ashelyn commented on the lack of disposal water bottles within her classroom. Most students will bring a reusable bottle to school which they can re-fill throughout the day, wash, and bring again the next day. Additionally, many students have altered the methods used for holding their lunches by switching from Ziploc bags to reusable containers, and trading paper bags for cloth ones.
Reducing waste and teaching children about the significance of recycling is an important task achieved by this school. By exposing children to recycling and reducing waste they can be taught at a young age about the importance of looking after the environment. For many students these lessons will carry over into their home life and impact the ways in which their families deal with waste. The younger generations will be the future and it is important that they learn how to develop solutions to current and upcoming environmental issues.
Unfortunately, society has become consumeristic where people will throw out perfectly good items because a newer version has become available. When individuals are done using an item, their first thought may be to toss it into the landfill. However, another person could still get use out of that object if given the chance. Second-hand stores are based off this idea that gently used clothing and appliances can continue their lifespan in the hands of another owner. Using this idea, gifts do not have to be brand new either. Items can be re-gifted to extend their use, just because one person no longer sees a use for an object, does not mean another individual will also view it as waste. In Ashelyn’s class she promotes this alternate view when children think about Christmas or birthday presents. As children generally have little to none of their own money, she encourages giving gifts of time or gently used items, instead of purchasing new things every year.
Other schools could implement similar initiatives to encourage their students to change the ways they view waste. This could include encouraging the use of reusable containers, using less electricity when natural light is available, or creating a lending library within the classroom. Similarly, by incorporating these ideas into the curriculum via passion projects and real-world, students are more likely to implement recycling practices into their daily routines. The three R’s (reduce, reuse, recycle) are important to think about in the classroom and at home. By starting to ingrain these values into children at a young age they can grow up and continue to apply these rules into their adult life. Schools which highlight these areas nurture students to become responsible adults who respect and care for the environment.
Written and photographed by Kristen Hancsicak