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Recycling Lessons Go From School To Home

By Green Schools Program |
A teacher at Hamlin Elementary School in Rochester Hills, MI, tells us about a green classroom success:

What started as a school cell phone recycling program has grown into a school full of children who practice their lessons at home. Here's how it happened!
A teacher at Hamlin Elementary School in Rochester Hills, MI, tells us about a green classroom success.
WRITTEN BY: 3rd Grade Teacher Marisa Kalmus



What do I do with my old cell phone? Do I throw it in the trash? How can I get rid of the battery? Can someone else use it?

In an era where the newest technology will be outdated in a matter of months, these are questions that should be plaguing our society. However, there are an astonishingly large number of people that don’t know the answers to these questions, or don’t even know that these questions should exist.

A successful career in the educational system is no longer just about teaching reading, writing, and arithmetic — it means fostering a love of learning, a love of life, and an inner love inside each child, for him or herself, and this includes a love of our planet and a need to care for it. If you were to talk to any child who has been a part of my class over the last five years, they would tell you that I have one most important rule: Be respectful. In my room, students learn to be respectful to me, to each other, and to the world around them. There are standard ways to show respect to people, and the ways to show respect to our planet are infinite.

Over the years, the kids have shown immense creativity when presented an opportunity to help make our world a better place. Old pop cans have become pencil holders, water bottles have become Mother’s Day vases, and once a conglomeration of used materials were put together to create “Bob”, our class robot, who sat front and center in our classroom for the remainder of the school year.

When I was given an opportunity to begin a cell phone collection site at our school, I had no hesitation. Here was a chance to bring the values I teach in my classroom to the rest of the school. With strong support from our PTA and administration, our green efforts soared. In addition to the cell phones, we now collect cell phone accessories, all kinds of batteries, and ink cartridges in hopes of teaching children about the harmful effects of putting these items in a landfill. Our fourth graders collect scrap paper to recycle for the whole building. Our third graders take part in a unit where they study their effect on the earth and travel to the Mind, Body, and Spirits restaurant where they learn about green living. We are visited by the Ann Arbor Ecology Center so our students can participate in an educational workshop.

A mother of one of my students mentioned that her son had become annoyingly diligent about recycling in their home. Any time she wanted to throw something out, his question was, “Can we recycle that?” While it isn’t typically a goal of mine to make parents want to throttle their kids, in this case I think it’s okay — I’ve instilled values in a child that are making his home a better place. He is teaching his family about how to be a productive member of society, and he wants to make an impact on his world. What more could a teacher ask for?

What green lessons have you seen spread outside of school and into homes? Share in the comments!



Recyclebank Green Schools Program awards grants to schools in order to fund environmental projects that empower youth to green their own communities. For every 100 points donated to an accepted school, Recyclebank donates $10 to that school.

Under the guidance of Principal Gary Cornish, Hamlin Elementary School is teaching students that they can have an impact on our environment. Students will learn about recycling and composting, and that trees help us keep our environment healthy. The outdoor teaching station, the weather station, and the seedling project where third grade children will plant a seedling tree on Earth Day and harvest it to transplant on Earth Day in fifth grade, is all designed to give the students first hand experience in keeping our environment healthy. The long-range idea of taking their photo with the tree upon graduation from college is a goal-setting strategy and a way to achieve long-term impact for students.

Learn more about the Green Schools Program!


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