Yukon Montessori School battles plastic pollution

When discussing the global plastic pollution, things can often seem bleak. That is 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 and is referred to as 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.

After learning 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 showcases not only the harmful effects of plastic pollution, but also imagines potential solutions to the crisis.

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.

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—a million dollar idea if I ever heard one! Some pieces showed the extent of plastic pollution and its effects on wildlife and ecosystems, calling for the viewer to take action against garbage. One of my favourites was a rocket ship created to remove garbage from space and return it to Earth to be recycled.

Accompanying the art pieces were informational posters providing the facts about plastic pollution, and 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 could play a role in decreasing plastic waste, but most importantly we talked about ways we can 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, and I’m hoping we can get everyone on board for plastic-free lunches in the fall.”

The class’ timing is great, as Zero Waste Yukon is kicking off a campaign to promote Plastic Free July, an international initiative to raise awareness of plastic pollution and to challenge people to refuse as much single-use plastic as they can for the month of July. Throughout the month they’ll be celebrating people that are refusing single-use plastic, and providing tips for living with less.

“These kids are our future Zero Waste champions,” says Sarah Preiksaitis, program manager for Zero Waste Yukon.

“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. These small behaviour changes have an impact.”

Plastic Free July kicks off July 1, visit zerowasteyukon.ca/plasticfreejuly for more info on how to sign up and all the ways you can choose to refuse single use!

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