Your child is undoubtedly familiar with the concept of recycling. Perhaps he or she owns something “made from recyclable materials.” Or maybe your family recycles empty bottles and cans, and your child knows to put these items in the recycling bin. He or she probably even recognizes the recycling symbol on the bottom of these recyclables.
So, does your child have a thorough understanding of recycling? What else can he or she learn from the three R’s, Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle?
Knowing the importance of conservation, the science of composting, and the difference between renewable and nonrenewable resources is just a start. Most importantly, the three R’s can also help your child develop his or her creative thinking and strategic skills—and gain a deep respect for the environment.
Take your child’s understanding of recycling to the next level with a hands-on strategy.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
Before you and your student take action, review the three R’s and discuss any concepts that are new to your child.
Make sure your child develops a solid understanding of this concept by reviewing the vocabulary. What does reduce mean? If you have a younger student, discuss each term in familiar contexts. For example, you could discuss these different uses of reduce:
- Reduced sodium snacks, which are more healthy because they contain less salt
- Reducing fractions to their simplest form in math
- Reducing a fever by taking medication
For extra vocabulary practice, you can ask your student to come up with a sentence using the term. Ask older students to define each word in their own words.
Here are the definitions:
Reduce — to limit the amount of resources you use and the waste you create
Reuse — to use something more than once
Recycle — to use something again for a different purpose or after it has been changed into something different
Once you and your student have reviewed the definitions, discuss renewable and nonrenewable resources. What are some examples of each? What do the three R’s have to do with renewable and nonrenewable resources? How are the three R’s related to each other?
Next, discuss ways that you and your family can reduce, reuse, and recycle.
Ways to Reduce
- Walk, ride a bike, carpool, or use public transportation instead of riding in a car.
- Turn on the lights only when necessary, and switch them off when you leave the room.
- Collect rainwater in a bucket and use it to wash a car or bike instead of using a hose.
- Hang clothes outside to air-dry on a nice day.
- Make your own natural cleaning solutions.
Help your student practice logical thinking skills by writing down what resource is being reduced in each of the above examples.
Ways to Reuse
- Take a reusable bag to the grocery store.
- Donate old clothes or toys to secondhand shops.
- Keep empty glass bottles to hold water or other beverages.
- Choose reusable school items such as dry-erase boards.
- Buy rechargeable batteries.
- Collect small items such as pop tabs, milk caps, old buttons, etc., and use them as math manipulatives.
Students who are really interested in reducing the resources they use can try measuring their progress. For example, students can weigh a week’s worth of trash before making an effort to reduce the amount of waste in the house. After a week, measure the garbage bag again. Does it weigh less than it did before?
Ways to Recycle
- Set up recycling bins at home and take empty plastic and glass bottles, aluminum cans, cardboard, and newspaper to the nearest recycling center if your community doesn’t have recycling pickup.
- Start a compost pile.
- Make crafts using paper bags, milk jugs, cereal boxes, and other items from around the house. One fun idea is to recycle crayons.
- Take old phones, computers, and other technological devices to a recycling center.
- Buy recycled paper.
Start a Three R’s Project
Once your student has reviewed the three R’s, it’s time for some hands-on exploration. Work with him or her to plan an independent project using the guidelines below.
- Figure out how to reduce, reuse, and recycle more often, and set a specific goal you can measure.
- List the specific tasks you will do to achieve your goal and when you’ll do them.
- Decide how you want to keep track of your progress. Will you use a notebook, calendar, computer, etc.?
- Decide how long the project will last. Figure out how it will have a lasting impact.
- Create a plan for getting others involved in your project.
- Form a list of strategies and activities you will do to learn more about the three R’s.
Planning and completing a project makes the three R’s personally relevant to your student. This is how to truly teach the importance of conservation and convey our role in protecting the environment.
How do you and your family reduce, reuse, and recycle? Share your experiences and strategies with us.