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Dr. Joanne Meier

Along with her background as a professor, researcher, writer, and teacher, Joanne Meier is a mom. Join Joanne every week as she shares her experiences raising her own young readers, and guides parents and teachers on the best practices in reading.

Teachers as pack rats

December 1, 2010

Maybe I can blame my years as a teacher for my pack rat tendencies. Teachers have a keen eye for creative ways to use (and re-use) many everyday objects. I was reminded of this as we unpacked our holiday decorations last weekend and found the "mitten man" Molly made from an unclaimed mitten from the lost and found at her preschool.

I'm not the only one who recognizes that everyday objects hold real educational value in the classroom. Start collecting is a post on just this topic; Ruth encourages teachers to collect miscellaneous items such as candy wrappers, restaurant menus, ticket stubs and receipts for use in a writer's notebook.

A similar use of materials from home is the basis for environmental print activities. Environmental print is the print of everyday life. It's the name given to the print that appears in signs, labels, and logos. Street signs, candy wrappers, labels on peanut butter and the K in Kmart are other examples of environmental print. For many emergent readers, environmental print helps bridge the connection between letters and first efforts to read.

Collecting and re-using isn't just for language arts. Trash for Teaching collects clean and safe materials and re-purposes them as educational resources. Materials are used for art projects and can extend curricula already in place. Students get bags of materials and off they go! The project is out of California, but seems like something that could be replicated on a smaller scale within a school.

The Imagination Factory teaches children and adults creative ways to recycle by making art. There's a featured art lesson and a trash matcher that shows you art projects you can do based on materials you have on hand. Although some of the site is available to members only, other portions are open to the public.

Even the youngest kids can learn to reuse and go green in the classroom as How to Go Green in the Preschool Classroom points out. As Sylvia writes, once the teacher gets the ball rolling, having an increasingly eco-friendly class is not as difficult as one might imagine.

So, hooray for us pack rats! The possibilities are endless!


Thanks for the great ideas Joanne. I am a pack rat as well. I try to get rid of my old stuff but always wonder if I would need it again. I am trying to find activities that will help parents and children read and to bond over learning. I really like the idea of collecting normal items and starting a writers journal. This is a great activity for children to be creative and learn to express themselves. Thanks for the tip.

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"I have always imagined that paradise will be a kind of library." — Jorge Luis Borges