How can we make an innovative recycling project and get out of everyone’s comfort zone? Have you ever had the desire to volunteer so strongly that it almost became a full-time job? It happened to me in 2015, and it’s repeating now, in 2019. I will present an old project here, and after reading my reflection after a few years, I must say that I still like it and that I would love to repeat the same project!
You can read more about my favorite environmental course that changed my entire practice below:
ACTIVITY NUMBER 1
This activity was conducted with Roma children in Serbia. The group had children of different ages, and all of them were of Roma nationality. They are a minority in Serbia, and they face discrimination and prejudice daily. Since they live in severe poverty, they collect various materials. After collecting them, they sell them for recycling as a way of feeding their families. I will give you more details to explain the pompous title innovative recycling project.
The Roma people are very musical, so I showed them a video of Paraguayan children who played on landfill instruments. The children felt such empathy since their homes look very similar.
After that, we designed our instruments and discussed what kind of instruments or things they want to make out of materials found on the street.
The chilfren were eager to search for materials because that was the first time someone asked them to be creative with it. After gathering the materials, we created a birdhouse, a ball, and rhythmic instruments. We also collected materials that we took to recycling. For that part, see the activity number 2.
Empowerment through exploration and fun!
I showed them photos of many polluted places on the planet, where the natural animal habitat is no longer usable. I encouraged the children by presenting them the idea that they not only have fun with these materials and earn money for their food by selling it – THEY ALSO HELP THE PLANET. This encouragement made them realize that even if you are not wealthy, you can also change things and make the world a better place. They were empowered and they felt amazing because their actions have a higher cause.
I plan to conduct a joint recycling activity with the children from the regular schools, where the Roma children will act facilitators and trainers. They will explain which materials can be recycled for what and also what is the impact of pollution on our planet. (This was a future step which unfortunately didn’t happen, but I would love to pursue this if I do the project again.)
ACTIVITY NUMBER 2
In the second activity, I took the children to the nearest recycling facility. An employee helped us by showing us all the recycling steps and he explained why recycling matters.
The children finally got to see what happens on the other side of the door once they drop off the materials.
We helped the workers separate the materials and we discussed which materials make the most damage to the natural world.
We created –PROUD ECOLOGIST– medals from the remaining recycled materials. After that reflected on our day.
In the end, we played ball games with the ball we made, and we also played with the recycled instruments.
What are the ways in which the human and natural world interact and impact one another in this community?
It is hard to connect the natural world and the human world in our education system. Content-based teaching is present only in the native language, not in foreign languages. When it comes to specific outdoor activities, field trips are very rare, and 99% of schools do not allow having a pet in the classroom.
In the preschool system in our country, the human and the natural world are more connected than in the primary school system, and teachers use a hands-on and learning-by-doing approach.
Here are some examples of integrated teaching that I’ve conducted:
- Taking the preschoolers to a fruit market and discovering many kinds of fruits;
- Visiting a museum of nature;
- Watching nature documentaries on a big projector;
- Conducting inclusive activities with SE and regular students outdoor;
- Doing experiments outdoor;
- Learning how to care about animals.
These activities may seem simple, but they are very hard to conduct in my community. My goal is to conduct as many activities and lessons outdoor, in parks, museums, hospitals, farms, and all the important institutions because that’s very important if we want to help students become confident and independent. On the other hand, I want to introduce students to other cultures, show them animals and plants which they can’t see in their
gardens, and take them to places they only listen about.
Recycling is usually done in the classroom, this is why I decided to take the children to see the process by themselves through this innovative recycling project!
Have you ever developed or participated in any kind of volunteer environmental programs? I would love to hear your volunteer stories!
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