by Penny Cook
Who could have ever have predicted that when recycle bins were installed in homes and offices all over Australia, the future creativity of the nation would be under threat! Don’t get me wrong. Recycling is the right thing to do for the planet and, I can tell there has been a huge change in social behavior because early childhood settings all over the country are suffering from a lack of cereal boxes, toilet rolls, milk cartons (remember them), egg cartons, corks and the like!! All of which are ‘gold’ to the imaginations of our youngest innovators.
A natural part of how children learn is to make sense of the world they’re experiencing by re presenting their thinking. That’s why they pretend to be someone they’re not (dramatic play), use bananas as telephones and understand that 3 cereal boxes and 2 toilet rolls is really a robot. Without ready access to a range of discarded but potentially fabulous resources, children will miss out on opportunities to be creators and innovators.
What used to go to preschools and schools as ‘junk’ and was transformed into amazing creations, now ends up in recycle centres to be turned into toilet paper, envelopes and tyres. Early years settings are crying out for recycled goods. I have seen teachers guiltily deconstruct a mermaid that didn’t go home with its owner, to recycle the recycling!! Without the ‘junk’ the alternative is pressure to purchase pre packaged expensive bags of coloured sticks, straws, feathers and sequins or alternatively, pre packaged expensive natural materials. Either way children need to and will be creative.
In northern Italy, the city of Reggio Emilia, well known internationally for their early childhood centres, has developed Remida, a centre for organizing and displaying discarded materials to be used as creative resources. Schools can go there and stock up on all kinds of interesting recycled materials, which then get translated into the most amazing creations. There is an endless supply because businesses and industries work in partnership with the city and recognize the importance of the creative process in learning. I’m wondering, is it possible to use face book and social media to influence another change in social behavior –putting in a ‘create and innovate’ step before the recycle depot.
Once at kindy, a child had a plaster cast on his leg. At the same time there was a young boy who didn’t speak. This boy went to the never ending supply of ‘junk’ material, found two milk cartons, cut the bottoms out, opened out the tops and then placed a carton on each leg. That ‘spoke’ to me. It told me this boy wanted to know what it felt like to walk with plaster on his legs. I’d say I was seeing empathy- wanting to understand from another’s point of view. If there wasn’t access to the recycling, I might never have known that about the boy who didn’t speak.
So…tip out the recycling, re badge it as ‘the creative station’, throw in scissors, tape and a glue stick and watch what the kids do!! Or, bundle it up and take it (washed and sorted) to the local early childhood centre or school. The children of Australia will be extremely createful!!
Also check out: how a child’s creativity and imagination helps them deal with anxieties and phobias.
Penny Cook has been an early childhood educator for over 30 years. She loves to travel – anywhere. Penny is a mother and ‘Nan Pen’, who is continuously fascinated and amazed by her two young grandchildren. She has always wanted to live in a tree house by the beach …..it’s never too late!!
Photo source: Popsugar, Familysponge