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Lessons from 5th Graders

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I recently embarked upon a journey through the brains of 5th graders. As part of an educational segment on the 3 R's and recycling in general it is interesting to see the differences in what kids know and how much or how little they know about certain things. And while this journey took me through weird alternate dimensions, there are some lessons I have taken away from this experience.


First, kids know more than you think they do. I was surprised to find out that they pretty much all knew that their trash was taken to landfills. (We don't' have any incinerators in our area) And I was also surprised to find that several knew that landfills produced methane gas. It seems like this topic isn't a very popular one but they did understand, for the most part, how a landfill works. When we got to the recycling part, many did know that you recycle to save resources and that their materials were made into new things.


The alternate side of this is that I was taken aback by the things they didn't know. Mostly, they hadn't learned enough about this topic to connect the dots as to what conserving resources, or not conserving them, means to us and to the Earth. The fact that reusing and recycling material is throwing less away not only saves the landfill from producing more methane; but it also means using fewer resources and all the energy and pollution prevented from that end as well, seemed to turn on a light bulb. It literally looked as if 90% of them had a little light bulb hovering over their heads that turned on. It was just like in a cartoon.


There is something so satisfying about being the catalyst for this thought process. Critical thinking skills like this will keep verifying the need to acutely develop them if not every week then every month of their lives. What a great way to begin this journey in life by thinking critically about your role in the community, the region, the country and the world.


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Guest Friday, 24 May 2019


Every bit of recycling makes a difference. For example, one year of recycling on just one college campus, Stanford University, saved the equivalent of 33,913 trees and the need for 636 tons of iron ore, coal, and limestone.

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