Monday, 20 April 2015

Building an earth caring classroom community

"Knowledge plus motivation equals action."
David Suzuki, David Suzuki's Green Guide (2008)

As Earth Day was approaching, I decided to read a book about caring for the earth to the students. After only a few pages into the book, hands immediately went up!

"We can water plants!" Z. G.

"Give birds seeds." P. I.

"We can plant seeds!" O. S.

"Pick up trash." J. K.

"Don't throw trash!" J. S.

"It is bad for the ducks." M. S.

"The air would get all stinky and when you breath it in it goes in your lungs." O. S

"I know what can happen if everybody throws garbage, I read it in a book. There's going to be nothing except one tree." H. S.

"If we ask people to clean the garbage, we can clean the earth!" S. C.

I never ended up finishing the book. Instead, a deep conversation sparked about the garbage students saw in their community and on trips they had taken with their families.  

"I went biking with my mom and picked up three pieces of garbage!" O. M.

"When I was at my cottage I saw garbage in the water. It was an elastic band." J. K.

"I saw garbage near a bush in Toronto!" S. C.

"We saw Canada Geese at Centre Island, we saw garbage near the water, a plastic bag!" R. & L. S.

Children need to develop a relationship with nature before they can be expected to heal its wounds...Without that deep, abiding sense of comfort in and love for the natural world, no amount of chastising about turning off the lights or biking to school is going to make a bit of difference" (Sobel, 2008, p. 148).

Living close to a forest and stream, I took some pictures of garbage I noticed. My hope was that students could see that garbage was found in these settings as well.  

Canada Geese video taken near my house. Further supporting a nature connection with students. 

I also showed them some pictures of animals that came in contact with garbage.

A striped skunk admitted late last year with a plastic dessert lid stuck on her neck has finally made it back home after 3 months in care and more than 20 stitches! Think before throwing out that empty cup, can or jar. Simple acts like rinsing your recycling or cutting plastic lids in half ensures that they don't end up stuck on wild animals' heads or feet. (Toronto Wildlife Centre Facebook Page)

After showing them the pictures, students had quite a lot to say!

"Animals might think garbage is food and they might eat it and choke!" H. S.

"Garbage is all over the beach, the water can get brown and the beach will smell bad. if the water goes brown it could make the fish sick." J. K.

"The seagulls can grab it and eat it!" W. E.

"Oh no, the porcupine can choke on the plastic!" L. B.

"They (animals) are eating the plastic bottles!" E. W.

"Garbage is bad for animals." R. S.

"If I saw a Canada Goose eating garbage I would grab it from them!" M. O.

"I know why garbage is bad for animals...because some is plastic and some is paper and they could choke on it." L. S.

I asked the students if there is anything we can do to help?

"We need to start picking it up in our neighbourhood!" O. S.

"We should start making signs for people to know not to throw garbage." O. S.

"We could make signs so people know not to throw garbage, for people to read in the neighbourhood." H. S.

"We could make a poster and flyers!" W. E.

"I saw a Canada Goose almost eating a can at the beach." S. T.

Posters made by students.

During Thinking and Learning Time, R. S. had a wonderful wonder question! 

"What makes water dirty?" 

I asked her if she wanted to ask the class? She agreed and so began an interesting discussion.

"I think garbage makes the water dirty and it will turn brown and black or grey because garbage is dirty." H. S.

"I think mud makes water dirty because the animals can drink the water and it could make them sick." W. E.

"They might accidently eat the dirt." K. W.

"But when I went to PEI I saw fish swimming in it and they weren't sick." J. K.

"The fish knew it was mud and didn't go there." J. S.

I asked the students how we can find out what makes was dirty? Below is what we came up with! 

Last day of experiment, water with garbage got too stinky to keep in the classroom!

"The garbage water was clear at the beginning. Then it started getting darker because of the garbage." A. F.

"I wonder why this one (water with dirt) is transparent, and this one (water with garbage) is not?" O. M.

"Garbage makes the water dirty." F. D.

"The water with garbage got much more stinky!" S. T.

"The dirt water I can see through it is transparent and it doesn't smell. The other one smells because the garbage made the water translucent." K. W.

"If you were an animal or plant, which water would you like?" Mrs. Ralph

"I would swim in the dirt one because it's cleaner than the garbage one." L. B.

"I would swim in the dirt one because in the garbage water I would get stuck." D. C.

"I would swim in the dirt water because it is clean." B. P.

"I would drink the dirt water because the garbage one is yucky." R. S.

"I would swim in the dirt one because the garbage one would make me sick." S. C.

"I would swim in the dirt one because I would get my head stuck in one of the garbages!" B. K.

I would swim in the dirt one because I would get my leg stuck in the garbage." L. S.

"I would swim in this one (dirt with water) because it is much more better than this one (garbage with water). S. T.

The following day, W. E. had a great wonder question to ask everyone.

"Why do people throw garbage?" W. E.

I was proud that this question came up because students were starting to go deeper in their thinking.

"People don't want it, so they just throw it out." C. C.

"They don't remember to throw it in the garbage." S. T.

"Sometimes they don't know where the garbage can is." D. A.

"Some people don't know (J. K.), or care (F. D.)!

That same day, J. K. also wanted to share some information with the class!

It's exciting when students bring in new information during our sharing time. It fosters new ideas, wonders, and theories, supporting new directions for investigation, exploration, and experimentation. In this case, students started discussing and wondering what items went in each bin. The compost or kitchen waste bin was very intriguing to students. 

I read the book Compost Stew which further supported their curiosity about composting.

Naturally the students wondered whether we should have a kitchen waste bin in our class. Since many had fruit and vegetable peels, and other organic material, we decided to place one on the snack table.

During our sharing time, M. S. had a wonder question he wanted to discuss with the class.

"It's where all the garbage goes." O. S.

"It's where garbage goes and some machines crush it and bulldozers come and bury it under the ground. I watched a video on it. The trash keeps getting bigger and bigger!" J. K.

"There is another pile, and another pile, and another pile!" A. F.

"Because people don't sort garbage and recycling stuff that why it gets bigger!" A. T.

"People don't know which one to put it into, recycling or garbage." K. W.

"It's not true, it goes into the ground where they dig a hole." J. K.

"No, it's not actually true that they make holes, because they put it on the ground and they keep adding to piles, it's like a park with mountains!" Z. G.

Last week, students sketched flowers from their garden that some of them created last year. They have been visiting the garden often to see how much their plants grew. Many wondered when they could start weeding as they did last year! One day A. T. and O. S. suggested that maybe we could try and make a compost so we can make soil for our garden! I read the book "50 Ways to Save the Earth", which suggested to dig a hole and place the kitchen waste inside. Then you cover it back up with soil.  

As we were digging we found a few neat treasures!

After finishing the compost hole, A. T. asked me this wonder question!

I asked her to read it to the class and see if anyone had any ideas?

"We can look in a book?" W. E.

"We can google it!" O. M.

"Maybe we can count how many days." P. I.

"Maybe we can check every single day to see if it turned into soil?" O. S.

"Maybe we can make a tally chart!" A. T.

With no direction from me, I allowed them to use the chart paper and any materials they needed to create their tally chart. They did a great job!

Neighbourhood Cleanup!

Last week the students participated in the school wide neighbourhood cleanup! They took great pride in finding garbage and placing it in the correct bag (recycling, compost, garbage bag).

Will our compost hole work? Stay tuned for this update and new wonders!


  1. What a WONDERful glimpse into the learning process! I was utterly fascinated to follow the kids' explorations and was delighted to discover my COMPOST STEW playing a part in their investigations. Thanks so much for sharing my book with your students, Anamaria! I wish you all the best with your compost hole, and all your adventures in learning...

  2. Wow! Thank you for the nice comment and for taking the time to read our learning journey! Also, thank you so much for writing such an amazing book. The students and I loved it! We continue to use it as part of our learning and have purchased another copy for our classroom!

    All the best!


    1. It may be a little late to mention it now that you've already invested in another copy (thank you!), but I'm currently celebrating Earth Day with a giveaway of the book on the COMPOST STEW Facebook page, so if you know anyone who might like to enter, here's the scoop:

      Meanwhile, thanks again for your kind words and enthusiasm, Anamaria – ever-so-greatly appreciated!