Setting up SustainabilitySep 27, 2023
One tenant of the Montessori philosophy is the prepared environment. Montessori teachers ensure that the classroom allows children to access everything they need for their education. Each day supplies are replenished, items are put back in their place, and everything is made ready for the children. The prepared environment allows children to choose activities that are at their learning level and complete them as independently as they can. This same principle can be applied to sustainability in classrooms, whether they are Montessori or not.
Supplying the classroom with reusable materials will familiarize children with sustainable alternatives and can involve them in sustainable practices. Replace paper cups with sets of stainless steel or enamel espresso cups. Check out thrift stores to lower costs and double up on the reuse cycle. Set up a dishwashing space for children to use. To ensure sanitation requirements are met, teachers can wash the cups a second time before they are used again. Change out disposable napkins for cloth. Cloth napkins can be purchased or homemade. Students could assist in cutting, sewing, ironing, and/or washing them.
When supplies cannot be reused, find ways for students to be part of the upcycling, recycling, or composting. Designate a container for scraps such as paper, thread, broken crayons, dried out markers, etc. Upcycle these bits and pieces as much as possible and recycle whatever remains. Let students use leftovers for collages. Choose wax art projects to use up crayons. Watercolor with old markers. See what ideas children can come up with in the realm of upcycling and encourage them to experiment.
Set up recycling, composting, and trash bins for children to access. Label them with pictures and words. Explain what goes in each and why during a circle time. Save a smattering of items for children to sort such as plastic wrappers, paper towels, cardboard boxes, cracker crumbs, leaves, etc. Check the bins at the end of the week to see which has the most. Set a goal with the class to keep the trash bin the most empty and discuss ways to avoid trash accumulation.
Allow students to be as involved in as much and as many of the sustainable practices that your classroom engages in. Can they empty the compost bin into the composter as it fills up? Can they tally how many times a week the trash has to be emptied? Can they research recycling? Can they bring their lunch in a bento box? Can they bring a water bottle to school? Can they donate sustainable materials?
Keep this quote in mind as you expand your eco conscious practices and share environmental responsibility with your students. “The child has a different relation to his environment from ours…the child absorbs it. The things he sees are not just remembered; they form part of his soul. He incarnates in himself all in the world about him that his eyes see and his ears hear.” (Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind)