Our current unit of study in kindergarten focuses on protecting the environment by reducing waste and recycling. I started out the unit by having the kids discuss where they think our trash goes, viewing pictures of landfills, and counting the number of bags of trash our school makes in a single day. They understood that it is important for us to limit the trash we produce in order to protect our environment. I then challenged them to try and reduce the amount of trash they make at school and home. I asked them how they thought we could reduce our trash, and they came up with a couple of ideas (some thought that having the garbage truck take it away was a good way to get rid of it!). In general, they seemed unsure of how to reduce the amount of trash we create. So, today, I brought in a few items for them to compare and contrast. There are six tables in our classroom, and I put a pair of items on each table. The kids took turns observing the items at each table. I asked them talk with their groupmates and decide which item in each pair was better for the environment (which would create less trash?):
You can probably easily see that in each pair of items, one is disposable and one is reusable. (In the case of the two pieces of paper, one is colored on on both sides and one is barely used.) At first, my kids had a pretty tough time figuring out which item in each pair was better for the environment. I heard a lot of them saying things like, “The smaller [plastic, throwaway] shopping bag is better because it’s smaller, so it makes less trash!” They live in a low-income community and may not have seen many people using things like reusable shopping bags. As the kids rotated through the stations, I spent time talking with each small group, helping them understand why the reusable items were better for the environment. By the time they’d seen all the objects and we’d reconvened as a group, they all pretty much understood why reusable items create less trash.
Overall, I was really happy with how the lesson went – this was definitely some new learning for the kids. Can’t wait to continue with this unit – I think we’re going to attempt to make a composting bin for our classroom!