A generation ago, when classroom wastebaskets were filled with worksheets and empty lunch packaging, there was little emphasis on recycling or preserving the environment. Today’s schools have made big strides towards becoming green. Most have a standard recycling program throughout the building, and many teachers include environmentalism in their instructional units. Today’s students are taught to recycle, reuse and to conserve.
A typical school recycling program includes colored bins in classrooms and common areas where students can place plastic, glass and paper. Many schools have annual recycling drives that encourage students to bring in aluminum cans or other recyclables to help raise funds for the school. During lesson time, teachers also encourage reusing containers and paper for projects or note taking. These steps have made recycling a normal part of the student routine.
Elementary students also learn about caring for their environment in other ways. Taking a cue from First Lady Michelle Obama’s kitchen garden, many schools also introduce children to the importance of protecting our environment through hands-on experience in a class garden. Students may participate in preparing the soil, selecting and planting seeds, watering, weeding and harvesting the produce.
Environmental field trips also help to reinforce young students’ awareness, with nature center and forest preserve visits becoming more and more popular. The quintessential zoo field trip has become focused on the plight of endangered species and practical ways students can contribute to their conservation.
Through school wide mandates, classroom lessons and field trips, today’s school children receive a comprehensive education in how to reuse, restore and conserve the earth’s resources.