At the beginning of the school year, my kindergarteners wrote a letter to our school principal asking if we could start a plastic recycling program at our school. Along with our letter, we attached a picture of all of the plastic from one day’s worth of snack that we would be needlessly be throwing into the garbage. Our principal was very enthusiastic about our idea, and posted our letter and photo on the window into his office, for others to read as well. Eventually, one of the grade 2 classes – Mrs. Anderson’s class – saw our letter and agreed that they wanted to take action and start recycling in their own room as well. This led to a grade 5 class – Ms. Carter’s class – to take up the initiative as well.
So, with 3 classes now taking action, we brainstormed how we could bring all of our classes together and somehow make a visual impact to share with the rest of the school reflecting the amount of plastic we consume in our school. We decided to provoke our students through our Units of Inquiry – posing the question to our students, “Now What? What should we do with all of this plastic to help educate the rest of the school on the importance of recycling plastic, rather than throwing it away?” In all of our classes, we showed our students some images of recycling art – artists who use trash to create sculptures and pieces of art. In Kindergarten, our Unit of Inquiry is How We Express Ourselves. Students are exploring all of the various ways that humans express their emotions and feelings, so this project fit perfectly! We are using our art to communicate with our peers that it is important to take action and do something about the huge amount of plastic that we are throwing into the landfills.
Today was the big day! We gathered all of our classes into the common area of our school, put out our 3, overflowing containers of plastic and let the cross-graded groups collaborate, cooperate and communicate together to create their visual representation. The process was phenomenal! Listening to the conversations all around the space, and watching the cooperative working teams was just as enlightening for us teachers as it was for the students.
In the end, the students had come up with some AMAZING pieces of plastic art to display for the school. What was most incredible was the variety of ideas that were represented! From animals (a jellyfish and a dog) to structures (the Calgary Tower) and everything in between, these students produced some amazing art together – and sent a strong message at the same time (they didn’t even use all of the plastic from the 3 classes, we still have some left over).
After we came back together as a whole group to reflect on the process and hear some of their thoughts and ideas, the whole group came to the realization that this was only THREE classes worth of plastic – that means that there are about 20 other classes that do not yet recycle the plastic that they consume in their classroom. For many of the students, this was a real eye-opener to them that this is an issue that we need to address. All of our classes were buzzing afterwards, and they are very excited for other students to see their pieces of art. And they are hoping that they inspire others to take action with us!
Birdhouse Teacher Castle
The Calgary Tower The Eiffel Tower UFO
Robot Train Helicopter
Rocket Dog Truck
Jellyfish Tower Space Shuttle
Plastic Art Gallery