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How GLS shares the three R’s with Detroit Youth

Updated: May 17, 2023

Imagine a room full of children yelling - this could be problematic for some, but for GLS it’s a clue that the students are ready and excited to learn and also meet BEE Green, everyone’s favorite mascot.

BEE Green, and GLS have a long history of bringing recycling education to Detroit Public

Matthew Naimi of Recycle Here! giving the first lessons to Detroit youth - the beginning of GLS
Matthew Naimi of Recycle Here! giving the first lessons to Detroit youth - the beginning of GLS

Schools. As early as 2007 the request for programs to teach Detroit Youth about recycling was put out. Recycle Here! answered this request and started going to schools introducing BEE Green. Green Living Science grew out of this program and formed its own nonprofit in 2011.

As Green Living Science’s mission is to transform Detroit through environmental education — one of our favorite ways to share this information still, is through assemblies at schools across Detroit. From the little one is pre-k to the middle schoolers beginning to question what they are learning, they are all coming to these presentations with curiosity and are full of questions about why we should practice the three R’s.

While GLS adjusts each assembly based on the age group of the students, the basic content is showing students how to celebrate the ways they are ALREADY environmental stewards.

  • Turning off the lights to save on energy and save the light bill is being an environmentalist.

  • Reusing old jars to store food instead of using ziplock bags is being an environmentalist.

  • When brushing your teeth, turning off the faucet until you’re ready to rinse your teeth is being an environmentalist.

  • Adding or subtracting a layer of clothes instead of changing the thermostat is being an environmentalist.

  • Helping an adult or teacher plant vegetables in the garden is being an environmentalist.

Emphasizing what they are already doing and then building off these established patterns teaches them how to deepen their positive impacts. Then students learn that when reduce, and reuse aren’t options, recycling is the next best way to help the environment. There is always an emphasis on how to reduce plastic — especially single use plastics — as this leaves a significant negative impact on our planet.

To keep things interesting and understandable for each group of students, GLS uses the following tricks:

Kindergarten - Second grade:

To help these younger students learn the basics of the three R’s they learn a hand motion which makes things very interactive — and is so fun to watch. When the word Reuse is used they clasp their hands together and make a wave motion with their arms, when the word Reduce is used they go from big arms open to small arms closed and clap, and when the word Recycle is used they make arm over arm circles with closed fists. They are so excited to learn that they are already doing things in their everyday lives to help the environment.

Third grade - Fifth grade:

Once students are a little older and they are more easily able to understand the three R’s GLS kicks up the information a notch. Highlighting how they can reuse materials to create alternative items really gets these students excited. Showcasing local art installations such as The Heidelberg Project really gets them thinking about how you can be creative in reusing everyday materials. GLS is sure these students go home and pull things from the recycling and trash to use for arts and crafts — imagine their parents' surprise.

Middle schoolers:

These tough on the outside, but soft on the inside kids really connect with the idea of personal responsibility and how they can attach their own personal values into their efforts of environmental stewardship.

GLS’s middle school presentations incorporate student driven inquiry. Efforts are made to not only include the environmental stewardship they are already doing, but to introduce sustainable careers to them, as well as explain the economic model of recycling. Some of our favorite questions and comments from them include:

  • How are plastics and oil related?

  • Are shoes recyclable?

  • Why wouldn’t someone recycle?

  • What is the point of recycling?

  • How is recycling processed?

Students at Thirkell Elementary excited to pose for a photo with BEE Green
Students at Thirkell Elementary excited to pose for a photo with BEE Green

GLS is excited to be back in Detroit area schools and the students are loving the presentations they are receiving. We fondly remember how excited one student was to get their recycling cart at home that they came up after the assembly to turn in their slip before leaving the school. She says, “Seeing the joy and excitement in these kids makes assembly days the best days.”

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