Talking to kids about recycling and saving trees
Earth Day is around the corner and I am thrilled to be introducing this Global celebration with my 5-year-old. Earlier this week we watched a few short videos about recycling and where the non-recycleables go when we throw them away (via the Waste Management Solutions website). I introduced the recycle symbol above and explained to her that anything with that symbol can be recycled into something else. One of them happened to be a recycled cardboard packaging used for mushrooms. I even showed her a few examples of items in our home with that symbol and had a quick sorting lesson.
Last year we didn’t make a big deal of Earth Day because I didn’t feel she was ready to take in the scientific details (also I didn’t think she would remember much about it anyway). We planted some seeds and enjoyed a nature walk in honor of Earth Day, but nothing beyond that. This year however, she is ready. She’s a curious little cat in fact, and just the mention of Trees becoming Paper, intrigued her enough to sit through the following videos. She had no idea that paper originated from trees. When I asked her if she knew where paper comes from, she said “the store” (of course). Then I asked “but how do you think it’s made?” She just shrugged her shoulders and said “I don’t know.” I felt so bad that I had never explained it to her before.
I knew at that point this would be our main topic for discussion. She LOVES to be outside. She’s my wild child – hair down, barefoot and climbing trees whenever possible. I swear everyday she’s asking “Mom, can we go on a picnic today…let’s go somewhere…it’s a beautiful day…can we go to the park, the beach, Great America?” Not always at the same time or in the same order, but boy is she persistent on getting her daily dosage of vitamin D. The girl lives to be outdoors!
So, I sat her on my lap in front of my laptop and immediately googled “How is paper made from trees?” The YouTube video below was the first search result. We watched it once quietly, then again to answer some of her questions. Take a look.
At the end of this first video I pointed out all the rolls of paper and said, “each one of those rolls is brand new paper that was made from many trees. What do you think about that?” She stayed quiet for a moment with an almost sad but confused look on her face. No answer. I added, “what do you think will happen if people keep cutting down trees and don’t plant new ones?” She thought for a moment longer and then her face lit up a little before saying “I know, God will give us more!” “Yes”, I said, “but humans use so much paper everyday that God can’t keep up with planting enough trees everyday. She needs help.”
Hoping to put it into a better perspective for her, I asked a more serious question that would affect her directly. “What if we go camping and all the trees are gone? Would you still want to go camping?” She nodded no. “Neither would I” I said, “because there wouldn’t be any shade to rest under, or homes for the birds and squirrels. Can you think of someone who can help plant more trees for our planet?” She looked at me, a little more relaxed now but not sure of her conclusion, pointed at herself, and in a quiet voice said “me?” “YES!” I said with a smile. “We all can help. You, me, brother, Daddy.”
I then asked her “what do you think will happen if we never recycled paper and keep using trees to make paper?” Her answer was “well, we won’t have any trees left……but we can plant some more trees.” “Yes” I said, “and you know what else we can do? We can recycle old used paper to make new paper so we don’t have to cut more trees down. We can save a lot of trees by recycling! Would you like to see how recycled paper is made?” “Yeah!” she replied.
A few minutes later we were watching an episode of How It’s Made on handmade paper. Have you ever watched this show? We love it!
I have to admit It was pretty cool watching paper being made this way as opposed to the first video above. Watching trees being shredded didn’t sit well with my conscience. After watching this second video however, we both became excited about making some of our own paper! The process seems simple enough, right? Just in case, I searched for some other paper making examples and ended up at one of my favorite blogs called Tinkerlab by Rachelle Doorley. She has a good example of how to do this at home.
After all this talk about saving trees and recycling I wasn’t sure how much of it she understood and absorbed. I didn’t want to continue and end up losing her interest so I left it at that and figured I would wait for her reactions. Not more than a minute passed before she asked, “can we go buy a tree and plant one today?” She got it! At the least, I think she did. Even if all she got out of all this was that planting trees is a good thing, I’m good with that (for now).
“Of course! I would love to plant a tree with you” I answered, “but let’s wait a few days to think about what kind of tree we want to plant, what do you think?” She agreed and was off to find some paper to use for our paper making project.
Stay tuned for an update on what type of tree we chose, and definitely come back to see how our paper turned out!
In the meantime, visit Tinkerlab for a great list of Earth Day activities for children.