The old PSA reminds everybody to pitch in, and as the world tries to go green, it seems like it has resurfaced in spades. In schools, so many people come and go every day. It can be easy to forget that even though janitorial services keep it clean, everybody needs to do their part.

Recycle vs Throw Away

Students are able to learn very early on what can be recycled and what can be thrown away. Help kids understand that paper, plastic and cardboard can be recycled, while most everything else needs to be thrown in the trash. Since children learn through play, games can drive these points home to little minds.

  • Gather clean trash and divide kids into groups. Have them decide what is recyclable and what is garbage.
  • Find various jars, boxes and bottles and instruct the students to put them in the appropriate container: glass, paper/cardboard and plastic.
  • Take students into the playground or garden. Have them bury something plastic (like a bottle) and something that will decompose (such as an apple core or banana peel). In a week or two, unearth these items and show kids how the bottle did not decompose, but the apple core did. Explain the effects of trash in landfills and how it affects the environment.

Simple Things

It doesn’t need to be a big dramatic show to encourage children to clean up their school. Lead by example in showing them the small things that they can do to make a difference.

  • Show them that it’s a great idea to pick up any garbage they see in the hallways or on the playground.
  • Encourage them to wipe their feet before entering the building. Explain that slippery floors are dangerous floors and that it would be very sad if someone slipped and fell and ended up getting hurt.
  • Toddlers are able to understand that cleaning up is important, so older children should have no problem grasping this concept. Encourage students to pick up after themselves after playing, doing an art project and at lunchtime.
  • Children love to feel important, so having a rotating schedule of lunch table helpers can encourage good habits. These students can be in charge of throwing away excess trash they see, wiping tables and cleaning up spills.
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As the authority figures to students, teachers can be a valuable asset in showing young children how to keep their school clean and to take pride in it. Yes, there are custodians who do the heavy cleaning, but they appreciate the extra help!