RECYCLING: Teach Your Children Well

Weekly Reader, the largest newspaper for kids in the world, recently surveyed third grade readers to find out if they collect bottles and cans for recycling. Eighty percent of the nearly 7,000 8-year-olds who responded said they recycle those items.

The survey questionnaire, which appeared in the Nov. 6, 1998, student issue, followed two articles about garbage.

"Too Much Garbage!" noted that nearly every city in the United States shares the challenge of what to do with all its garbage. "Landfills, areas where garbage is dumped and often buried, are filling up," wrote Suzanne Sensbach, Weekly Reader edition 3 editor, in the first garbage article. "Scientists have been studying ways to get rid of garbage. They are testing a tool that melts the garbage."

In the second article, "Could Torching Trash Be an Answer?" Sensbach described the plasma torch, which was developed by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Washington, D.C., to test the outside surface of space shuttles.

"When a space shuttle enters the air around earth on its way back from space, the outside of the shuttle gets very hot," she wrote. "NASA used the plasma torch to make sure the space shuttle could handle that heat without coming apart."

Coinciding with the articles, a teacher's guide offered instructions on how to introduce garbage issues into the classroom and help students search for answers on how to deal with declining landfill space.

"Each American produces 2 to 3 pounds of household garbage per day," Weekly Reader noted. "That's close to 1,000 pounds of garbage per person each year. No matter where all that garbage is stored or how well it is hidden, it does not disappear. ... Many landfills were started long ago, when town officials set aside land where garbage could be stored. Since most landfills are almost at capacity, or nearly full, scientists are working hard to find other solutions."

Additionally, the teacher's guide offered instructions on how teachers could lead students toward exploring the solid waste management issue.

For example, teachers were encouraged to ask students if they ever thought about where garbage goes after it is picked up. "Ask if any students have ever visited a town dump or refuse station," the guide stated.

Teachers also were asked to get students to brainstorm ways to reduce garbage in the classroom, discuss how to reduce or reuse items, and put feasible ideas into action. An interactive event could be a class field trip to a recycling plant, which would give students a firsthand look at what happens to recyclable garbage after it is picked up, the newspaper suggested.

Weekly Reader published the survey results four months later in its March 5, 1999 issue with two recycling articles: "Recycling: From Plastics to Pullovers" and "Turning Used Bottles Into Useful Clothing."

For 70 years it has been Weekly Reader's mission to connect children to the world, says Sandra Maccarone, editor in chief. "We take our obligation to children and teachers very seriously. As part of this, Weekly Reader surveys its readers on a regular basis and reports their viewpoint back to them and to the world."

Currently, Weekly Reader has a classroom circulation of more than 6 million readers in grades Pre-K through sixth.