Lessons Learned

OK, readers, I’m back to it. That plastic thing: walking, talking, doing the plastic-free lifestyle. There have been some bumps in the road and a few detours in the past few months but no worries! Here we are, mid-August and things are great. So let’s dive in!

Let’s talk about teaching. No, let’s not talk about teaching. How about communicating? Yeah, let’s go with that. Communicating plastic pollution to an audience. Up until a few months ago, I thought I pretty much had it nailed: figure out your audience, tailor your presentation, and boom! Done. Well, I had an experience back in April that completely changed my thought process about how we communicate and talk about this huge, massive issue of plastic.

The audience: preschoolers. The ones who can’t quite read and aren’t totally sure where Hawaii is on a map. The ones that will be so totally focused for a solid five minutes and then, all of a sudden, will literally run into another room, on to the next adventure. After spending just an hour with a small group of these little kiddos, I learned a few things:

Introducing the kiddos to plastic pollution!
Introducing the kiddos to plastic pollution!

1) I have the utmost respect for anyone who, as their career, works with this age group. OK, if we’re being honest here, I have miles of respect for any and ALL teachers…you are truly amazing.

2) The name of the game is quick! Fast! Go, go, go! These kids love doing things, offering suggestions, looking at pictures. They don’t like to be talked at. They love being engaged and included and feeling like they’re offering something useful. In this respect, plastic pollution actually ends up being kind of fun to talk about, because they absolutely love looking at photos and talking about “trash” (their word of choice for plastic pollution).

Where am I going with all of this? This was a very cool learning experience for me, and I think it’s one that more of us could use. Interacting with and teaching a group of small children is both a frustrating and completely humbling experience. It makes you realize that, “Oh wait, this is the next generation. It’s these guys that will be cleaning up our mess and figuring out how to make this world livable.” So it would behoove us to let them know what’s up…on their terms. I’m not saying we should all drop everything and go talk to some pre-Kers, but if the opportunity presents itself…heck yeah, go for it!

When I can watch a 5 year-old finally make the connection between the plastic she’s holding in her hand and the picture of the dead Laysan Albatross fledgling, I know that something is working and that these kids will be OK. Don’t underestimate the power of the little ones. 🙂

A HUGE thank you must go out to Great Expectations: For Early Learners. Thank you for inviting me into your classroom and for giving me such a wonderful experience!


2 thoughts on “Lessons Learned

  1. Ryan, start ’em young! You have a rare gift…so glad I got you in front of kids! (& BTW: they want you to return!)…you engage them, let them touch stuff, really get them psyched! Now to motivate some adults into less plastic use (at my school in particular!)


  2. Christine Graham

    Ryan, here’s the truly shocking part: this is exactly what I learn teaching young adults (VISTAs, Americorps) and even, to an extent, learners aged 25-40. No one can sit still, no one wants to be ‘talked to’, no one wants to HEAR without also touching, moving, socializing. The old ways of teaching are out the window. You are young enough to adapt to this, much harder for me, but at least I see and accept it. Most pre-1980 teachers…..just frustrated and annoyed. Glad to see you are continuing so engaged! Christine


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