I used to dread the recycling unit I was required to teach. I just didn’t think it was all that interesting myself, and none of the projects, activities or books I found made it seem like fun. But then I found some friends!
Joyce Davis is an early childhood educator who specialized in puppets and science, and she made learning anything so much fun! She brought a whole bunch of different kinds of squash to one of her presentations – more than I ever knew of – and each one had jiggly eyes glued on. As she developed simple characters from the squash – while giving great information about them, I found myself leaning forward, laughing and engaged with the squash!! It was amazing – Joyce is amazing! So I decided if Joyce could make puppets out of squash, I could make puppets by gluing eyes on recycle-able materials. In fact, Joyce says you can make a puppet out of anything by gluing on a couple of jiggly eyes.
It really changed my attitude about this unit, it was so much fun telling the children that Patty Plastic did not want to get thrown in the garbage, and she begged them to save her! Mikey Metal told of his fear of being squished after he saw someone step on a Coke can. Peter Paper told the children that he loved it when people folded him, or cut things out of him, but he really didn’t want to end up in a garbage pile. Gloria Glass thought she was more important than the others because she is breakable, and needs to be handled carefully; and she told them how much she loves the recycling center that gives hot showers and sends her off to be filled up again.
This was just a fun introduction to the whole topic of recycling, and ways we can keep the earth clean. Young children often feel like they are too little to do anything important, so when we talked about conservation and recycling I liked to help them think of ways they could make a difference and to help save the earth. We talked about how we could use less energy, and what makes the earth dirty – we made lists of things that make the land dirty, things that make the air dirty and things that make the water dirty. Kindergartners are so concrete they usually keep talking about dropping garbage or trash, I tried to find books that helped them think about other ways we pollute the earth – and we learned the word pollution too!
Tomie de Paola wrote a great book called Michael Birdboy.
It really is a little strange – the main character dresses up like a bird every day and it never explains why, but Michael Birdboy loves nature, and gets upset when a black cloud comes and the flowers die, and birds get dirty. He tracks down the source of the black cloud, and helps save the earth!
Here is one to print:
I left most of my recycling books at school but I had one called If a Tree Could Talk – it was one of those emergent readers from a teacher’s store. We acted this out wearing costumes made from paper grocery bags (recycling!)
We made litterbug bags and went out and cleaned up the playground.
Here is an idea for a litterbug
But it might be more fun to let the children design what they think a litterbug would look like – and glue it onto a paper lunch bag. We added writing to this project after discussing why we are NOT litterbugs.
Again, please add the type of lines that work best for your class to add their writing to this paper.
I sent home a note asking each child to create something from materials that would otherwise end up in the trash. At my school there was very little space to display projects, so I asked the children to bring all the projects on the same day and we had a recycling parade around the school. All the kindergarten classes participated in this, and we just quickly walked through all the classrooms. Of course each child shared his/her project with our class too!
It was really fun to see what they all came up with. I tried to take an individual picture of each child with his/her project, and I made a book with a simple patterned sentence:
“Megan helped save the earth, she made _______________ from ________________.”
I tried to make enough books like this through the year so each child could take one home at the end of the year.
Here are some pictures of the childrens’ projects
I made hats out of newspaper for any children who did not bring in a project that day, so they could participate in the parade too!
For my own contribution to the parade I made a newspaper dress, including a purse for Roxie Heart, and she went with us on the parade.
I brought in real food packaging and we sorted things according to paper, metal, plastic and glass. Another visit from the recycling friends puppets was a great lead in to the sorting. Then we made a book about recycling:
In our community we have curbside recycling, so this truck looked familiar to the children. There are 2 copies on each page so you can xerox and collate these books, then cut them in half.
On each page the children glued a clipart picture of something made from that material, and a real item. For the metal page I gave them each a small piece of aluminum foil, and they had a choice of a few clipart pictures of metal things.
I gave each child a small square of newspaper print to glue on along with clipart of books, notebooks, etc.
Here is the book to print:
We did another fun science experiment. I talked with the children about how some materials do not disintegrate, even after many years. I collected styrofoam packing pieces, some are made from corn starch and dissolve quickly in water. A small group of children at a time took a few regular styrofoam pieces and put them in water, then wrote and drew about what they observed. Then I gave them a few of the earth friendly packing pieces and they put them into the water, then drew and wrote about what they saw.
I hope you find some ways to have fun while talking about how to save the earth!