Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Portland's Green Initiatives - Inspiration for the Montessori Classroom and Home

As we mentioned in an earlier post, Portland, Oregon is the beautiful city hosting the 2013 International Montessori Congress. With a theme of "Montessori: Guided by Nature," this year's congress brings together Montessorians in one of the greenest cities in the United States. This year World Environment Day falls on Wednesday, June 5th, so in honor of both events we are taking a look at how Portland works to be green.

NAMC international montessori congress world environment day portland green airport
The Portland International Airport features a living green wall, as well
as a glass canopy that provides solar power . [Photo from Inhabitat.]

Portland has a number of interesting and environmentally centered initiatives that have proved wildly successful. Learn more about how the city cares for nature as inspiration for fostering environmental stewardship in your own Montessori classrooms and homes with green activities!

Green Inspiration for the Montessori Classroom and Home from Portland, Oregon

Hold a Fix-It-Fair

In Portland, Fix-It-Fairs are held three times a year, featuring community members and vendors who provide information and services on how to save time, save money, and be environmentally conscious in every day life. While your school will likely not want to invite vendors, your older students can research local ways to make a difference and share with your community! Doing research, gaining useful real life knowledge, and preparing a presentation or event to share with others are all important skills. Possible ideas include:

  • reducing toxic products used around the home and garden. Find out where household chemicals can be recycled, and search out recipes for making your own eco-friendly cleaners and fertilizers.
  • learning about public transportation. Find out if bike and car sharing services are available, and look for ways to get around town on foot, by bike, and by bus or train.
  • find out where to recycle paint, electronics, and batteries. We throw away many items that can be recycled, and recycling electronics helps prevent chemical leaks in landfills! While some cities now have extensive electronics recycling programs, most people don't know where to recycle batteries or leftover paint in their area. 
  • discover farmers' markets, community gardens, and local food banks. Collecting for the local food bank is an important way to care for the community, and many areas now have city garden spaces that are used to grow produce for those in need. Buying vegetables and fruit at local farmers' markets saves both money and packaging, and keeps profits in the community.
  • compare CFL (compact fluorescent lighting) to regular incandescent light bulbs. As part of the comparison, figure out how much replacing bulbs in the classroom and home could save each year on energy bills. Light bulbs can also be recycled - find out where you can dispose of old bulbs safely.

NAMC international montessori congress world environment day portland green children working

Ban Plastic Bags

In 2011, Portland banned the use of single-use plastic bags in grocery stores and retailers. By the end of 2013, ALL retailers and restaurants will be included in the ban! Your students can look for ways to reduce plastic use in the classroom by bringing lunches in reusable paper or fabric bags, trading plastic baggies for resealable containers, and making recycled bags to use at home for shopping trips. As a fun, environmentally friendly Practical Life activity, make T-shirt shopping bags as an introduction to sewing - they are great for gifts too! You can find an excellent tutorial here. Students will only need to make three cuts and sew one edge.

NAMC international montessori congress world environment day portland green t-shirt bag

Recycle and Compost

Portland reclaims almost 57% of the waste that it generates through city-wide recycling and composting programs. Energy wise, that is like saving the same amount of C02 as 35,000 cars would produce for a whole year! Recycling and composting in your classroom will cut back on the amount of waste created and will help save the land and energy required to dispose of it.

  • Setting up a recycling center is easy! Creating a glass, plastic, and paper bin or box can be a fun activity for the classroom. Decorate each container and plan a schedule for emptying. If students bring drinks in a reusable container, there will likely be very little plastic or glass waste to sort through. When the paper bin gets full, get together with your students for an art brainstorm! Make your own recycled paper, use it in collages or paper mache, weave baskets and mats, or explore other recycled crafts.
  • Composting in the classroom doesn't require very much space! Creating a vermi-composting system can be done in a small plastic storage container, needs little to no maintenance, has no smell, and will provide a fascinating look into the lives of worms for your students. A small container of worms can be kept indoors (even hidden away in a cupboard!). The worms can eat up to 7 pounds of food scraps per week, and they produce nutrient rich fertilizer. Students can spread the resulting soil in your outdoor garden space and over school flowerbeds, and they can also share with gardening parents. Martha Stewart has a great tutorial and video here.

NAMC international montessori congress world environment day portland green composting

These are just some of the ways that Portland makes everyday life environmentally concious; you can learn more about all of Portland's green initiatives at the Portland Planning and Sustainability web page. In the coming months, we will be sharing more information and inspiration about Portland and the International Montessori Congress. 
As much as possible, NAMC’s web blog reflects the Montessori curriculum as provided in its teacher training programs. We realize and respect that Montessori schools are unique and may vary their schedules and offerings in accordance with the needs of their individual communities. We hope that our readers will find our articles useful and inspiring as a contribution to the global Montessori community.
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Tuesday, June 4, 2013.


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