An Earth Week Challenge in Lower Elementary
In honor of Earth Day, Lower Elementary students dedicated a week in late April to an “upcycling” challenge, introduced by IA’s teacher Ms. Lindsay. Here, she explains what that upcycling means and how it inspired students to contemplate new uses for items they once considered pure waste.
Recycling used to feel like doing our bit for the environment, but LE students recently learned that a lot of transport, heat, energy, and water is used to recycle paper, plastic, and glass. So instead of recycling, the division spent a week—dubbed “Earth Week” from 4/22 to 4/26—engaged in a competition to see which class could generate the least paper and plastic by “upcycling,” or creatively re-using materials.
During Earth Week, teachers observed new behaviors emerge as LE students chose to use mini whiteboards instead of wasting paper, or return unused napkins instead of throwing them in the trash. The kids discovered that one way to reduce our recycling/waste is to set aside items (check them out below) to be re-used for their Curriculum Celebration Projects rather than toss them in the recycling or garbage bins.
At the end of the week, Facilities Manager Mr. Kretzu and Ms. Lindsay gathered with all LE students to sort each classroom’s waste and recycling and see who won the competition. With students cheering throughout, Mr. Kretzu and Ms. Lindsay sorted the waste into different bins labeled “REUSE,” “RECYCLE,” and “WASTE.” Meanwhile, Ms. Kent collected classroom items such as old markers that the charity, Terracycle, can recycle. After sorting, we weighed the recyclable waste. And the winner was, druuuuuuuuum roooooooooll.…1B! They only produced 7 oz. of recycling all week! Good job!
During Earth Week, we also launched an initiative tackling food waste at lunchtime. Each student worked toward the personal goal of a “No Waste Lunch,” aiming to only serve themselves what they would consume, with no leftovers. The statistics showed that more than half of each class achieved this every day! Chef Lisa was happy that we encouraged the students to keep up this behavior!
As we spoke of environmental issues in class, some second and third grade students used writer’s workshop to write persuasive letters to Mr. George, Chef Lisa, or their parents about the benefits of composting at MMS. Others wrote about other environmental topics such as the issue of plastic polluting our oceans. The first graders had a more hands-on approach, literally, to working on behalf of the environment: They slipped on gloves and cleaned up Riverside Park while others took their ERB tests.
It was a wonderfully thought-expanding, inspiring week in Lower Elementary. Three cheers for all the students’ efforts! Please engage your children in conversations about re-use and recycling, as well as food waste after meals. We loved seeing their passion and enthusiasm as young environmental stewards.