Recycling 01: Teaching Recycling to Preschoolers

by Mitul Rathod and Liora Silkes

As part of Tufts’ continuing initiative to promote eco-friendly recycling and composting practices within the Tufts community, interns from Tufts Recycles organized a teach-in at the Eliot-Pearson Children’s School. Presented with the task of teaching a classroom of 3-4 year olds what recycling is, why it is important, and how to do actually do it, interns collected various recyclables and compost and brought it to the pre-k classroom. There, they gave a quick lesson on what’s recyclable and compostable, and what isn’t.

TR! Intern Mitul helps one of the preschoolers sort his recycling.

TR! Intern Mitul helps one of the preschoolers sort his recycling into the correct bin.

“Our trash bins are always full!” said one child, “the trash is always falling out!”  Naturally, we had to rectify this situation, and the kids were determined to help. Shortly after, the kids were asked to get into groups and pick out items from the pile of materials that had been collected, and sort them into their appropriate bins. The kids already had some knowledge of recycling, thanks to their normal classroom curriculum and their teacher’s, Vanessa Cid, passion for recycling. With a bit of guidance from the interns, the kids were able to sort 100+ items into their correct bins, an impressive feat to be sure. We were later told that when the kids went home, they wouldn’t stop talking about recycling!

The gloves were big and so were their smiles!

The following week we returned for round two. This time around, interns were going to be assisting in a mini-waste audit at the preschool. The kids had already collected the trash from various classrooms for auditing. With gloves too big to fit their hands, the kids dove into the pile of trash they had collected, enthusiastically separating out the contents into piles of glass/metal/plastic, paper, compost, and trash. The next step was to weigh each of the piles to determine how much of the collected material was actually trash, and how much belonged in the recycling. The preschoolers even wrote up a report to give to each of the classrooms, with a happy face to designate having done a good job at recycling, a neutral face to designate that the class needed a little practice with recycling, and an angry face if the class really needed to work harder on their recycling habits. The kids thoroughly enjoyed digging through the trash and writing up the reports, as if they were real waste auditors.

The preschoolers were happy to find so many recycling bins on campus!

For our final event, the interns gave the kids a tour of Tufts with an added scavenger hunt component. The kids were tasked with looking for the different types of bins and dumpsters that Tufts uses to dispose of waste. We gave them a checklist depicting the different kinds of receptacles that they marked off as they came across the bins. We introduced them to the different kinds of labels that could be found on each bin, and what the labels mean. We ended the tour by taking them onto the Tisch roof where they saw a beautiful view of the rest of campus, and the roof garden. Even after the long walk, the kids remained energetic and were sad the event had to come to an end.

The preschoolers are now experts at identifying the recycling symbol.

The preschoolers are now experts at identifying the recycling symbol.

Throughout these events, the kids learned quite a bit. They learned what constitutes recyclable/compostable materials, what goes in a specific bin, where these bins can be found, and how trash is audited. Most importantly, they were inspired to be mindful of their recycling habits to keep the environment green.