It’s that time again. Teachers and students grab their fall jackets, backpacks and pencils to start the new school year. It’s the first week back so everyone is excited, clearheaded and ready to work hard.
For HEART, that means saying goodbye to our summer camp kids and hello to our in-classroom and after-school students. For traditional classroom teachers, that means getting the classroom ready for 20 to 30 eager students, and hopefully, planning some fantastic humane activities and lessons to incorporate into your regular curriculum. The subject matter is, of course, vital to teaching compassion and respect for all living beings, but it’s not just about what you teach. It’s about showing students that being humane can impact every decision we make. For a classroom teacher, that might mean making your classroom as environmentally friendly as possible.
We thought we’d put together a quick list about how to make your classroom a shining example of what it truly means to be green.
- Paper is a necessity in any classroom, but too many students grab a sheet of paper, write a few words and then grab another. Consider implementing a class rule that all students must use the front and back of any piece of paper before it goes in the recycling bin. Talk to them about how paper comes from trees, how important trees are to all life on earth, and that by doing something as simple as using the whole sheet of paper, they can help protect our forests. (Opting for recycled paper when making your purchases also makes a big difference.)
- Art supplies such as construction paper are standard in most classrooms for young children. Teachers buy them new so kids can create colorful art projects. However, it’s worth considering reusable options for art projects. Junk mail, magazines, gift bags and any of the countless paper items we come into contact with each day can be saved and used by students. Need construction paper because you have to have a solid color? Make sure that students put the scraps into a tub to be used for the next project. Also, encourage them to bring in found objects like colorful ribbon or old wrapping paper to add to the supplies. Little pieces can be just as great as large pieces when it comes to expressing a creative vision.
- Choose eco-friendly pens and pencils. If you do a quick search online, you’ll find pencils and pens made from denim, newspapers, recycled plastic and tons of other materials you would never have thought could create a writing implement. Make those available for students to use and be sure to educate them on why their pens and pencils are earth friendly.
- Go virtual. Working with older kids? Ask them to write their papers on computers (they most likely do anyway), but instead of printing out their stories and essays, ask them to email you the final result.
- Turn off the lights! Anytime the classroom will be left empty, the last student to leave should know that the lights should always be turned off. This is a simple way to conserve energy. If it’s a particularly sunny day and you have great light in the room, you might even find you only need to turn on half the lights or none at all.
- Bring plants into the classroom. Not only will they purify the air, but you can help students learn how to care for living things by assigning a different student each week to be in charge of watering the plant.
- Make sure the recycling bin is well placed. Human beings tend to make their choices based on convenience. Make your recycling bins much more easy to find and use than the trash can. In a classroom, because paper is the main tool, very little should actually be thrown away.
- Did we miss any great green tips? Teachers, we’d love to know how you green your classroom! Let us know in the comments.