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Creative Solutions to the Plastic-Free Classroom

4 September 2018 Toby Lester News and Views

Plastic. It’s the dirty word nobody wants to hear. Whatever we do in our day-to-day lives, from public transport to the very food we eat, plastic is everywhere.

While we may not have been aware of the dangers of plastics while growing up, the current generation of children are more in-touch with the dangers of pollution than any preceding it. This is largely attributed to David Attenborough’s work with Blue Planet II, but there’s also increasing societal pressure to find a solution to this problem – pressure that was made clear by the introduction of the supermarket carrier bag tariff.

Today’s children are outspoken about their thoughts on plastic – outraged, even, as this disaster is going to affect them more directly than it will us. And, whether we like it or not, we have to accept that it’s the actions of elder generations are the single biggest cause of plastic pollution.

Children look to us to lead by example. Let’s try to set a good one.

Is Plastic-Free Possible?

How can we set a great example in the classroom? Is it possible?

Unfortunately, a lot of the plastic use in modern classrooms is largely unavoidable. Point your finger anywhere in the classroom, and you’ll probably find plastics used in one way or another. Across the entire school grounds, you’ll find plastic chairs and furniture. However, there are other ways we can avoid plastic waste:

  • Try reusable clear plastic pouches to display classroom rules and students’ work, rather than laminating it.
  • Hold a Plastic Bag Amnesty for both students and staff. Rather than going straight to landfill, these can be reused in your art and textiles classrooms for a variety of projects. (The sturdier ones are also great to carry your marking in!).
  • Foster children’s creativity by asking them to find more environmentally friendly (and hygenic!) ways to replace the clingfilm and tinfoil their lunches are wrapped in.
  • Consider switching over to square-bound student reading records and diaries. They have sturdy card covers attached by staples, rather than heavy-duty plastic covers and plastic coil binding, so they have less of an environmental footprint.

These are a great starting point, but they’re not an ultimate solution. As with so many things, this is a matter of education. The most effective way to spark environmentalist discussion  and philosophy in your students is to adopt a whole-school approach and to get everyone talking and thinking about it.

You can promote plastic-free school values in assemblies and on posters around the school. PSHE lessons are also the ideal time to discuss plastics and environmental issues with the student body.

Consider adding environmental values and tips to the pages of your student planners. Every student will have one, so they’ll have all the information they need at their fingertips. With a fully customised school planner, you can customise the content of every page, so it’s easy to include your environmental policies.