Passion Project: environmental responsibility

Hi.  I am a teacher.  And to remain balanced in who I am, and also model for my students what balance is in their lives, I have to teach with passion.  To be passionate about something means you care deeply and wholeheartedly about something.  I suppose to be passionate will look different for every person.  One of my greatest passions, if you haven’t already figured it out, is the environment.  Oh, it’s yours too?!  GREAT!

One thing that bugs me about humanity is that too many of us are just living for today.  We get that message a lot; live in the now, be present now, be here now.  But what about tomorrow?  What about next year?  And what about when your kids turn 50?  And what about when your grandkids turn 50?  What kind of a mess are you okay leaving for them?  And are you doing your part to lessen the mess?  I ask myself this constantly.  What am I doing to lessen the mess?

My job is pretty cool because I get to weave my own passions into my teaching, and get the kids excited about the same things.  I get to model my own environmental responsibility, and show them not only how to better care for the environment, but make them think about why this is important; how does it affect me?

I remember a few years ago I was presenting compost education to a group of Grade 4s.  We had spoken about landfills and how to lessen our food waste and greenhouse gas production by composting, and this kid after a whole lot of information puts up his hand and asks, “But… what about when our landfill is full?”  I respond, “We will have to find and clear more land to build another one.”  He says, “But… that one will fill up too.”  I respond, “Yes, it will.”  I could see him SEE IT.  It was awesome.

Last year with my Grade 7s I did a Waste Reduction project.  #waytooproud.

This year I am teaching Grade 2s and we just had another Waste Reduction Week.  I knew I wanted to focus on one thing that irks me so much: plastic waste.  Our school is already nailing the composting and recycling, but I see so much plastic waste coming in via students’ lunches, so I thought that would be a good focus.

Task 1: ask custodial staff to not empty our garbage.  We gathered our week’s worth of garbage, and emptied it onto a tarp to view and sort it.  I picked up a handful of straws and said, “These straws will be on our planet forever.”  They got really upset!  But, like, angry upset that such a thing is even possible!  Ignite the passion!

Task 2: sort our garbage by type, then focus on the biggest amount.  We were able to sort out some food waste for the compost and some recyclables, but our non-recyclables left us with 7 straws, 2 plastic forks, 8 yogurt cups, 10 Styrofoam cups, 29 Ziploc bags, and 35 candy and granola bar wrappers, which we recorded by practicing our tally marks.  We then graphed our findings on the Smartboard to find our biggest culprits.

Task 3: small group discussion for reusable options to replace plastic waste item.  We shared our ideas as a class.  Some students mentioned they already had certain containers that helped them avoid Ziploc bags.  We viewed these as a class.  I also sent home a letter asking for help thinking of more options, and to tell families what our goals were.

Task 4: this week, each student receives a paper “garbage” bag.  Our garbage cans are out of order.  What cannot be composted or recycled, must be put into their own garbage bag.  We will review our findings on Friday.

My next steps are to discuss the whys.  I have already introduced the students to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, and luckily a few weeks ago we had a Creek Science workshop and in that the kids learned about where our streams end up; namely, the Pacific Ocean.

More updates to come!  Since our conversations have started, students have been happily showing me their reusables, and double checking their items before throwing them in the garbage.  They are making conscious efforts to sort it out into our bins.  This alone can be a tough thing to learn!  But we are making it awesome.


  1. What a brilliant project and so well thought out! I wish I were a teacher and could copy you. It’s amazing to hear how your students start realizing what their own influence is and what they can do to reduce environmental problems. Can’t wait to read the results of this project.


    • Just hope it sticks! I will keep it up through the whole year. Maybe theme it like environmental superheroes. Ha! Thanks for the encouraging words!


  2. Wow, these are amazing & thoughtful ideas for students. You are truly making a difference. Imagine if all schools incorporated this type of learning about recycling, waste etc. Keep up the great work!! The next generation may indeed save the planet.


    • I wish every class in every school would incorporate more environmental studies. It is one of the most important things they can learn. However, even in my hometown it varies from school to school. Thanks for the encouragement!


  3. What an amazing project, Nadine! I love to hear your process with your class, such a great and practical way to break it down. Thanks for sharing 🙂


    • Thank you so much 🙂 I do what I can. I definitely think it is vital to get them thinking healthy environments early in life!


  4. This is such a great project! I love that you are helping to influnce those kids. Have you received any pushback from parents? I imagine for some of them it might be more challenging to convince them (the ones who actually buy the product) to buy different products than the kids. Although influencing what they are begging for would still make a huge difference.


    • I haven’t thought so much about parent pushback and haven’t yet received any. They have the option of not using reusables, that is their choice. I am just trying to change the mindset of thinking single use plastics are the only option 🙂 now you have me worried haha but hopefully they will just be positive.


  5. Teaching kids can be rewarding, yet frustrating at the same time. About three years ago I setup 100 or so lunchtime recycling programs in K-12 schools. The young kids were great, but the older ones couldn’t have cared less about recycling. Then there was the unnecessary food waste… Keep up the good work!


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