Are you Smarter Than a Second Grader…When Recycling?

It was the second-to-last week of school before they broke for summer, and the second graders at Monarch Learning Academy, located in West Orlando, were looking pretty fidgety. A close friend of mine and teacher, Shelly, invited me into her class to give a short lesson on recycling for her kids. I was surprised by how much knowledge they already had, and how much they seemed in tune with preserving the environment. I think I was probably the cap on an on-going education of sustainable practices and environmental conservation that she had already been rolling out. Shelly had exposed them to the importance of being an environmental steward.

The lesson started with me telling the kids why I thought recycling was beneficial and why I thought it was important to be kind to the earth. The analogy I used was to ones parents; they house you, they feed you, give you water, and all the resources that you need. Why would anyone want to take advantage of that unconditional love? The earth gives us everything we need.

After five minutes of Q and A, I could tell that it was time to move the lesson outside to the school’s courtyard. Shelly organized the thirty kids into five teams of 6, and they were given a minute to come up with team names. My personal favorite was the fearsome “Killer Leaves.”

I passed out bags of eight recyclable and non-recyclable items to each team, and told them to talk with their teammates about which they thought was recyclable or not. I stood in the center of the courtyard with a trash bin and recycling bin. Next, I told each team to come up one at a time to put the materials into the correct bin while I kept a tally if they were right or wrong. When they were wrong, I’d explain to them why that item wasn’t recyclable or actually is recyclable. I really liked when they’d debate with their teammates and use their reasoning skills.

At the end, the Earth’s Mighty Defenders were declared CHAMPIONS!!!


It’s exciting to see that the next generation is growing with a caring attitude for the environment they live in. They will be greatly affected by the older generation who proceeded them, which is sadly unfair to them, but the opportunity motivated me to continue fighting for the environment so that I can protect their right to enjoying the same beautiful earth that I’ve enjoyed.


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