Kidizens Blog

Learning to deal with stinky problem of Trash

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A Trip to the Shoreway Environmental Center

As a mayor, I would like to deal with the growing stinky problem of trash in my city,” said 8-yr old Mia, who is the Mayor of her LEGO city, Smallville.

At Kidizens, students build and run Lego cities with all the same challenges and issues that a real city faces. In fact, each of the ‘kidizens’ has had experience with solving the problem of waste management while role-playing as a mayor or a council member. Many of them have built recycling centers of their own.

Each year toward the end of their year-long sessions, the Kidizens leap out of their Lego world and into the community armed with their real-life learning and new-found sense of civic engagement. We take several trips to tour local businesses, see government in action, and many utility providers. One such field trip this year was a visit to the Shoreway Environment Center in San Carlos.

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As children arrived in front of the Shoreway Center, anticipation grew and questions swirled. “Will it be stinky?” someone shouted sparking laughs from her peers. Their curiosity and excitement grew until out from the big steel doors came Madison Guzman, the knowledgeable and friendly young woman who would be their guide. The children donned their gear of bright yellow vests and thick safety glasses and lined up in preparation for the tour.

The tour started in the compost area. The kids watched with excitement as giant machinery pushed thousands of pounds of organic materials into huge pits to be taken off to rot and be used as compost in gardens and farms. Already the kids were intrigued by what happens to their refuse and that it can be turned into something useful again.

Next, we made our way to the extensive educational center complete with hands on discovery boards, classrooms and even robots made of recycled parts! Both adults and children listened intently and hands shot up with questions about what can and cannot be recycled. The children were surprisingly invested in ‘getting it right.’ One child asked, “What do we do with pizza boxes?” to which Madison responded with, “Great question! All food soiled waste should be put into the compost not recycling.” Another asked, “What can be done with empty juice boxes.” sparking a discussion on common misconceptions about what can be recycled. We learned that Juice boxes along with Styrofoam, plastic forks and many other seemingly recyclable materials must go in the garbage and end up filling up our landfills.

It was now time for what would be the most exciting portion of the tour – the MRF (Materials Recovery Station) Whirling conveyor belts loaded with paper whizzed past below, as children, teachers and parents walked above. Hoppers full of bouncing plastics vibrated in their perpetual task of sorting. Bottles clanked, crushers crushed, and metal teeth shredded as they navigated the maze of stairs, pathways and catwalks.

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Looks of undeniable excitement and intrigue covered the faces of the children. It was hard to miss the level of engagement and enthusiasm throughout the tour. Credit must be given to Madison and the Environmental center’s educational program. Inspired by the tour, one group of kidizens decided to renovate their trash center in their LEGO city so that recyclables are sorted properly [make it funny?]

At Kidizens we continually strive to build more responsible future citizens who take an active role in their communities. Our thanks to the Shoreline Environmental Center for helping us in that goal.