Hi, I’m Esme. I’ve got a water bottle with Peppa Pig on it. We used to buy water whenever it was a school trip or we were on holiday, but now we fill up my water bottle instead. The animals in the sea might eat the ones we throw away and die…It is amazing how aware young learners are becoming about issues around sustainability. As knowledge and a consciousness of current environmental issues increases, we’ve started thinking creatively about how we might engage children further to take part in finding new solutions. These important conversations can lead to the creation of exciting, meaningful resources that children themselves might help conceptualise, contribute to making and ultimately would use and learn from within their educational environment.
Ecobricks or bottle-bricks have appeared all over the media as one of a variety of possible ‘solutions’. We’ve seen impressive boats and buildings being created out of bottles stuffed with soft single-use plastics. There is a lot of debate as to how ‘green’ ecobricks are over time, as well as condemnation of the manufacturers who are producing and generating the problem of single-use plastics in the first place. Ideally, we don’t want plastic bottles or soft plastic films. But unfortunately we still have some way to go until that is a reality.
In the meantime, the ecobrick presents lots of learning opportunities for the classroom. Not necessarily with which to build the entire classroom itself or all the furniture (though this is being done in parts of the developing world), but as a starting point with which to brainstorm alongside Early Years learners, how we might ‘capture’ single-use plastics and not simply dump them in our rivers and oceans. What better way to start a discussion than with a song about ’10 Green Bottles’. There are opportunities to explore what might fit into the bottles and to feel and talk about materials that are long, hard, soft or flexible.
The soft plastic materials are then pushed into the bottles. The chance to develop motor skills is pulpable when ecobricking – there is immense challenge in trying to squeeze plastics through a small opening and poke them in with a stick. There is also the force needed to compact it all down, thereby working all those muscles in the upper arm that will help develop strong pencil grips. So, there are many developmental skills being utilised and nurtured during the ecobricking process. It is also truly mind-boggling just how much plastic you can fit into just one bottle.
The resource then evolves slowly over the weeks so that it becomes part of the daily routine of the class. Children take responsibility to look in the bin, select appropriate plastics and help push them into the bottles. The making of the final product is a meaningful one, done collaboratively and with a deeper understanding.
A simple, hanging resource that sings volumes about Understanding of the World, Numeracy, Literacy, Speech and Language, Physical Development, turn-taking, PSED and of course, sustainability.