Waste not, want not
A plastic bag, is a plastic bag, is a plastic bag. Or is it? SHEQ MANAGEMENT looks at how the education agenda and the green agenda can meet for the benefit of all.
If you are a teacher with a green mind and a creative outlook on life, a plastic bag can become a teaching resource with magical abilities. So can an empty can, a used margarine tub, a box or an empty bottle. As they say, the only limit is your imagination.
Brainwave, a company specialising in training in the education field, recently embarked on training sessions for early childhood development (ECD) teachers to introduce them to four areas relating to children’s development, namely physical, social, emotional and intellectual development. This was done with the help of a sponsorship from Lonmin Mines.
What made these training sessions special is that all the teaching resources used were made from recycled material.
According to Dr Lanette Hattingh, CEO of Brainwave Projects, early childhood development is extremely important. “Children need to be ready on a physical, social, emotional, cognitive and perceptual level before they start grade one. If they are not ready there will definitely be developmental delays.
“Today, children are overweight and lazy. They spend way too much time watching television and we experience a definite lack of creativity. They don’t live in a fantasy world that they have created for themselves any more. Television killed the imagination of children.”
Hattingh says some schools, especially in rural areas, lack resources and the schools and parents are too poor to buy them. However, all that is needed is a bit of initiative from teachers and lots of enthusiasm from learners and parents.
“If you think about it, it is actually not necessary to spend so much money on expensive educational toys. If you use recycled material, you not only keep your school grounds clean, but the surrounding community can also do something useful with their waste.
“Creating educational toys from recycled material can also spark entrepreneurship, because these hand-made resources can be sold to other schools, as well as to parents, as toys for use at home. Looking at the bigger picture, it creates environmental awareness among learners and communities, something that is very high on the global agenda these days,” says Hattingh.
Brainwave believes that money should be spent on the transfer of knowledge, rather than on expensive educational toys that could be made just as easily by teachers and learners. With this in mind, Hattingh encourages teachers to use waste material that is freely available in the classroom.
During the training sessions, each teacher receives a plastic container with pegs, koki pens, scissors, glue and tennis balls, as well as waste material necessary to make resources. The waste material includes plastic bags, plastic bottles, cardboard boxes, newspapers, magazines and toilet roll holders.
“For example, we advise teachers to use plastic bottles to play ten-pin bowling. This activity has social, emotional, physical and intellectual benefits. In addition, learners become familiar with their bonds (working with numbers one to 10), as the skittles are arranged in groups of 10. You need nothing other than empty bottles and old tennis balls to play this game. And it guarantees hours of educational fun.
“Plastic bags can be cut into long strips and crocheted or braided into rope. And where will you find a better, cheaper and more environmentally friendly jumping rope? Plastic bags can also be crocheted into bags, hats and cushions and floor mats. In addition, they can be used as vests to protect clothing,” she says.
Creative early childhood development is not only meant for a privileged few. “We have also started training mothers on how to make toys from recycled material. If you cannot afford to send your child to a pre-school, you can use your creativity to stimulate your child at home with toys that cost nothing to make. There are also loads of entrepreneurial opportunities for the making of toys and selling them to schools or to local communities,” she adds.
It seems as if there are no losers here. Teachers, parents, learners, broader communities, as well as the environment, win all the way.