How to Make Your ESL Classroom Green for Earth Day
Children learn by example. Although it may sound like a cliché, it is absolutely true.
As their ESL teacher, like it or not, you’re also responsible for setting a good example. If you haven’t been conveying to your students the importance of conserving and protecting the environment, there’s no better day than Earth Day to start.
And the best way to get started is by setting up a green classroom. You'll be contributing to helping the environment as a group, and your students will be oh, so proud.
Here are some ideas for setting up your green ESL classroom:
How You Can Make Your ESL Classroom Green
Set up recycling bins in the classroom
Place different bins for different types of garbage and make sure that those for aluminum and paper are clearly labeled. Set up an entirely different bin for scraps of paper, tissue, yarn, etc… that may be used for future art projects. Encourage them to use these bins on a daily basis.
Minimize the amount of paper you use
If you really set your mind to it, you can effectively use less paper in the classroom. For example, if you're going to use construction paper for an art project, you might want to give each student half a sheet instead of one whole sheet of paper. To capitalize on the learning potential, give every other student in the class one sheet of paper and ask them to cut it half and share it with a classmate. As soon as they ask why, tell them that they won’t need more for this project and half a sheet is enough. They’ll be learning the value of using our resources wisely and that sharing is often the best way to achieve this.
Teach students to reuse materials
One of the three Rs, or factors that are essential to recycling efforts, is reuse. Ask your students to bring materials from home, which may be reused in class, like toilet paper rolls, egg cartons, milk cartons, boxes, paper or plastic cups, etc… Show students that these items that are so easily discarded can be reused to make beautiful things or even make a positive contribution to the environment. Help your class plant some seeds in everyday containers that would have otherwise ended up in the trash. They'll be amazed to watch their plants grow!
And there are plenty of other things they may be taught to reuse as well. Instead of bringing disposable plastic bottles to class every day, buy a refillable, washable bottle, and encourage your students to do the same.
Have a swap day!
For Earth Day, tell your students to bring something they no longer want to use or need, like a book bag, pencil case, school supplies, even books. Students swap items they no longer need or want for others. Designate one day every month, say, the last Friday of the month, for swapping.
Make your classroom truly “green”
To inspire your students to actively participate in the activities you propose, make sure the symbol for recycling is visible throughout the classroom. Put up lots of posters of plants, trees, flowers - remember it's spring so it's a great time to do this! Also, make sure you turn off the lights and all electric equipment when they are not in use, thus contributing to the “green” state of mind.
Encourage responsible buying
Are your students aware that they can buy notebooks and pads made of recycled paper? What about other products that are environmentally-friendly? Have non-toxic, environmentally-friendly school supplies in your classroom and encourage your students to buy the same. By supporting the efforts of companies that recycle or produce non-toxic materials, you’ll be contributing to a good cause AND keeping a good company in business.
Set up a green reading corner
Set up a bookshelf with books that convey a solid environmental message and teach kids things they can do at home to protect the earth’s resources. This Tree Counts by Alison Formento is a great book to read to your class and keep on your bookshelf throughout the year. Also recommended are We Planted a Tree by Diane Muldrow and Compost Stew by Mary McKenna Siddals.
You can try any or all of these initiatives, but above all, lead by example. If you don’t actively take part in recycling efforts, if your students don't see you reusing things, your colorful bins won’t make any difference.
Make sure your students understand that, yes, your classroom is an ESL classroom, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be a green classroom.
Claudia has been an ESL teacher for 20 years and has taught a wide variety of students from pre-schoolers to senior citizens, complete beginners to advanced students. This vast teaching experience has helped her write over 100 articles for BusyTeacher.org. When she is not teaching, she is also a freelance travel writer contributing reviews for V!VA Travel Guides' upcoming Uruguay edition, as well as travel articles and blog posts for a variety of online publications. She is currently living in Buenos Aires, Argentina with her spunky 7-year old daughter and crabby 10-year old cat, Ulysses. Google +.
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