Luca, Tammo, Elliott, Ben, Asher and Owen of Yukon Montessori School are visualizing solutions to environmental issues through Cosmic Education
When discussing the global plastic pollution crisis – and it is a crisis – things can often seem bleak. That’s not the case at Yukon Montessori School, where in Kelly Scott’s Lower Elementary class, the future looks bright. Very bright. Through Cosmic Education, the class is utilizing their creative energy to imagine solutions to global plastic waste.
What is Cosmic Education? It is one of the pillars of the Montessori system. Maria Montessori called it the path through which children develop a global vision. By developing gratitude for the universe and their own lives within it, children can begin to understand their role, purpose, and responsibility in society.
Plastic production has many associated negative externalities (costs) that will only worsen as consumption surges.
Since the 1960s, plastic production has increased twenty-fold. Plastic production uses 6% of the world’s oil resources. By 2050, it will account for 20% of global oil use. It is a material that lasts forever, but is mostly used for items that are destined for a single-use. As a result, we waste 95% of the value of our plastics each year. What’s more, vast amounts of these single-use items escape collection and are wreaking havoc on our ecosystems. By 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish (by weight).
After hearing about the growing problem of plastic pollution in the world’s oceans, and learning about 4 Ocean, an initiative to clean up marine plastic pollution, Scott’s class decided to create a project that could illustrate the dangers of plastic pollution to others. What they came up with was a plastic artwork show that highlights not only the harmful effects of plastic pollution, but also imagines potential solutions to the crisis.
Kelly Scott’s Lower Elementary class is teaching visitors about plastic pollution through recycled art.
I spoke with students Luca, Tammo, Elliott, Ben, Asher and Owen (ages 6-9) about their art pieces and was blown away by their depth of knowledge and creative ideas for solving this global problem.
Using recycled plastic, most of it from their school lunches, they created incredible models of machines and vivid scenes of plastic pollution, complete with explanations and up to date facts.
A scene that’s becoming more and more common, littered beaches and strangled marine life highlight the crisis of plastic pollution in our oceans.
Several students created machines designed to remove plastic debris from the ocean and recycle it. One was even designed to take ocean plastic and convert it into water! Some pieces showed the extent of plastic pollution and its effects on wildlife and ecosystems. Many called for the viewer to take action against garbage. There was even a rocket ship created to remove garbage from space and return it to Earth to be recycled!
This scene of ocean pollution was accompanied by pleas to “Save the turtles,” and “Save our Earth!”
Accompanying the art pieces were posters providing the facts about plastic pollution. Speaking to the boys it was clear that they knew their stuff. We talked about where plastic comes from, and the backwards logic of creating single-use items out of a material that lasts forever. We discussed how plant-based alternatives to plastic might help decrease plastic waste. Most importantly, we talked about ways we can all use less plastic in our lives.
“We’ve really come a long way with our classroom waste,” says Scott.
“We recycle a lot, and only fill a small garbage bin once every few weeks. Next up is student lunches, I’m hoping to get everyone on board for plastic free lunches in the fall.”
The plastic art pieces were complemented with posters displaying facts about plastic pollution.
The class’ timing is great, as Zero Waste Yukon is kicking off a campaign to promote Plastic Free July. This is an international initiative to raise awareness of plastic pollution. We’re challenging people to refuse as much single-use plastic as they can for the month of July. Throughout the month we’ll be celebrating people that are refusing single use plastic, and providing tips for living with less.
Kids like the students in Scott’s class at Yukon Montessori are our future Zero Waste champions. They’re out there reminding people that there are so many easy little things we can do, whether it’s bringing a reusable water bottle or coffee cup, or saying no to straws when we dine out. Small behaviour changes have an impact, and when kids are leading the charge, you know that the future is in good hands.
Plastic Free July kicks off July 1. Zero Waste Yukon will be at the Fireweed Community Market on June 28th hosting a plastic-free living workshop where attendees can make their own beeswax food wraps and learn ways to live with less plastic.
Visit zerowasteyukon.ca/plasticfreejuly for info on sign up and all the ways you can choose to refuse single use!