NEAT reached out to some teachers in the Peace Region to find out how they are greening their classrooms, or to share with us something exciting that is happening at their schools. Our first Teacher Feature is Jaimelia Turner, Grade K/1 at Ecole’ Central Elementary in Fort St. John.
The 5 Rs in a K/1 Classroom
Waste reduction is a teaching tool, but also a way of life in our class. It all started with several visits from Susan McGarvey (Eco-Advisor). Lucky for me, I have a K/1 class where the culture from the year before is carried forward for the new additions in September. Over the years, I have explicitly taught strategies to reduce, reuse, recycle, refuse and rethink our waste. But I have found over the past two years, many of the kids have taken more responsibility and are leading the way. I know pRRRdy recommends one “R” be RETHINK but I’d like to add ROT as another. It helps people understand composting. Composting is a little gross but very rewarding.
Our class compost is branded “plant garbage” and we collect it all week and empty it into our school compost bin. I used to take it home before we got a bin at school. We use the brown paper from hand washing to mix with the green waste. If you get fruit flies, fill the bin with water. The paper absorbs the water and makes it better for composting.
Our worm composter is an interesting spot to explore during the winter and we study the worms in the spring. It is fascinating to bring in earth worms and compare them to red wigglers. It is also wonderful for the kids to “see” the food turn into dirt almost before their eyes.
I don’t feed them out of the class compost as it’s mostly bananas and apple cores. They prefer food that is soft and has been frozen already so I bring stuff from home. Plus banana peels are fruit fly havens.
We have our regular recycling. The school collects the paper. Student fundraisers collect the juice boxes. We sort the plastics once every two weeks for stuff we can save and re-use. I take whatever we can’t save or use to my blue bin at home.
We have a shared spoon cup and decline the plastic cutlery from school lunches and hot lunches. We have a dirty dish bin and I wash them at night with regular dish soap. To disinfect, I rinse them in vinegar and water (1/10) and air dry. Northern Health told me that was adequate for sanitize them. I advise parents about my strategy and remind them to send spoons if they don’t want their kids to share.
I send home all Ziploc bags and ask families to reuse them. If they get left, Irinse them and save them. We don’t use them again for food due to allergies, but they get used for storing treasures, sorting objects and organizing manipulatives. It saves me money. I store single use containers above the sink before storing them away for later creations. By visually storing them, it prompts the students and adults to not throw things away.
One thing I am still struggling with is packaging. As a teacher, I can’t tell parents what to send for lunches. And parents are struggling to pull lunches together without me adding on extra guilt. I’d love to learn some gentle strategies for proposing less wasteful snacks. I have found the more affluent parents have purchased fancy bento boxes for lunches and this helps organize snacks without needing pre-packaged items.