The Episcopal School of Dallas
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Have you asked your second grader about recycling lately? Thanks to their new intensive and year-long study, Recycling in My World, second graders at The Episcopal School of Dallas may be more knowledgeable than you'd expect. 

Last year, second-grade students were in charge of collecting the recycled trash at ESD's Lower School campus. This year, the recycling theme is being integrated into Art, Science, Design Lab, Music, Innovation & Exploration time, as well as the classroom curriculum for a more holistic learning experience. 

Susan Hopper, an Educational Consultant at the Lower School, was instrumental in building this new year-long program. After a meeting with Lower School Administration, the team decided to hone in on this theme in second grade to emulate the project-based learning in other grades. 

“Our focus at the beginning of the year was to introduce the planet, the continents, and compassion,” Susan Hopper said. "Why do we need to have compassion for our earth and what does compassion look like? To drive this point home, the antithesis of compassion was the setting for the 2nd graders when they arrived in their brand new beautiful neighborhood filled with trash. Students collected the trash and began diving into the 3 R’s - reduce, reuse, and recycle.”

After this initial introduction, students were invited to reflect in their notebooks and consider:

  • What is the need for recycling?
  • What role could I play in fixing it?
  • How can I prototype a solution?
  • What can I do differently?
  • How can we expand this idea and explore on our whole campus?

Each Friday, students participate in Innovation and Exploration - a time to ideate and continue their project-based learning in a hands-on way. Students have made their own paper to use in art projects, a paper mosaic representing the world, jump rope out of recycled plastic bags, and musical instruments, each using entirely recycled materials. 

“We want students to leave Lower School as passionate and active questioners,” Tracey Shirey, Head of Lower School, said. “Our guiding question poses: How might we provide a more meaningful way of learning for students? Our answer is innovation and exploration.”

The next phase of the project will center on sustainability. The Lower School team has plans to involve both Upper and Middle School divisions and explore how they can expand this initiative on the entire whole campus.