This week is National Recycling Week, and although it’s a topic that should be recognised by all age groups, if we really want our efforts to make an impact we need to be teaching the value of recycling from a young age. This can be done at home, but there are also some great ways to make the topic more engaging and fun for children in the classroom!
Injecting some competition into recycling is a sure way to get children more involved. For example, you could ask the class to nominate two representatives to be ‘eco-warriors’ for that month or term. The eco-warriors will be responsible for encouraging their peers to recycle properly, and collecting and sorting the items. If you wanted to rotate the representatives, this could be done based on merit – so the next month or term it will be two more students who have demonstrated a commitment to recycling.
For those who need that extra push in the right direction, prizes can be given to the best eco-warriors within the classroom, but you could even extend the scheme across the whole school and compete against other year groups to become the ultimate green classroom of that academic year. Then the reigning champions can be rewarded with a special treat, such as a day trip or non-school uniform day.
Schools produce a lot of food waste, whether it’s from a school canteen, staff bringing in their own meals or children emptying half-eaten lunchboxes straight into the bin; there’s a lot of waste collectively. Rather than throwing food away amongst the general waste, making use of green space around your school and setting up a compost bin can be hugely beneficial from both an educational and environmental point of view! National charity, Garden Organic, has this great resource explaining the benefits in more detail.
This offers a hands-on approach to teaching decomposition, which already comes into the curriculum when learning about chemical reactions and bacteria. Asking children to guess how quickly an apple core will rot, or how fast a slice of bread will grow mould, is an engaging way of bringing the teachings from the classroom into the real world.
After visiting the compost bin to empty their food waste, you could even have a washing up station to teach children about the importance of hygiene. Parents will thank you too if there’s one less smelly lunchbox at the bottom of a backpack at the end of the day!
Spread the word
Sharing the success of the recycling initiatives you’ve put in place is also important. Not only does this make sure your hard work is recognised, but it positions your school as a pioneer and could encourage other schools nearby to get involved as well. Using the school newsletter or a parent news app, such as Piota, to update parents on the eco-warrior league tables, making a classroom display to showcase some of the key things learned from recycling or posting tips and advice on social media can all show solidarity with the environmental movement and position yourself as a green school.
Get involved with campaigns
Lastly, keeping an eye out for regional and national campaigns ensures that schools remain up-to-date with their local community. For example, many schools have already been getting involved through Recycle Now’s Home Recycling Challenge, running from now until 1st October. Schools can access free resources, sign up to the challenge and encourage children to write and decorate a list of all the things they can recycle locally, which is then sent in and considered for the competition. Winners will be announced 28 September, with the school with the highest percentage of pupils returning challenge sheets winning £1000 in cash, a certificate of achievement and a special assembly with the competition’s mascots, Maddie and Busta.
Of course, encouraging students to recycle is something we need to be doing outside of National Recycling Week. Luckily, there are plenty of options to make sure it’s just as engaging no matter what time of year it is!