The cycle of environmental education

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During the workshop, participants visited the local landfill to meet the workers who handle and sort rubbish and recycling, and to get a feel for the size and scale of the waste issue. “When you meet the people dealing with your rubbish, maybe you’ll think twice about throwing a banana peel into the paper recycling,” said Schudel of the social value of the exercise. While at the site, the group also collected materials for making paper.

The teachers were asked to create a design for a recycled paper mural that challenged views on consumption, waste and society’s typically sanitised notions of how waste is dealt with. On the final day, the group created the colourful piece which depicts two contrasting ways of living and managing waste.

But the challenge of exercises like this, and of environmental learning in general, is to move people beyond the obvious problem get to the root of an issue. “There is still a lot of work to be done in understanding and addressing waste issues from an education point of view,” said Schudel, “Everyone has concerns about waste but it stops there.”

While such workshops have apparent value in that they develop skills and teach resourcefulness, it’s important to remain critical of the messages that are being communicated. “I don’t want to glorify waste – we must keep things in perspective and be conscious of what we do,” said Schudel.