Sustainable Schools Blog

ToyBots: Teaching Sustainability through Toy Choices

We’ve just begun a course of study focusing on the sustainability of toys. We asked the kids to consider their favourite toy in answering the following questions:

  1. What is your toy made of?
  2. How long will you play with your toy?
  3. How long will your toy last?
  4. How active does your toy make you?
  5. Where does your toy come from?

What we Learned:

At all ages the children seemed to understand that most toys were not made in this country. By fourth and fifth grade, a significant portion (20%) said their favorite toy was the Ipad. Stuffies came in second. We found it pleasantly surprising that soccer ball and bicycle were often cited as favorite toys.

What We Got Wrong:

The students easily grasped the idea of why a more sustainable toy might be a better choice. They understood that there was a manufacturing process behind the creation of their toy. There assessment for how long they would play with a particular toy was very optimistic. Most students said they would play with their favorite toy forever or for at least five years. We haven’t yet found the best way to get the students to reassess the length of time they will actually play with any given toy.

Best Quotes:

“When I’m through with my McDonalds’ toy, I’ll give it my brother to play with. That way, we’ll get more use out of it.”

Sustainable Schools January 16th

January 16th

 Teaching Story Elements (Character and Plot) and Sustainability

Our approach this lesson was to create a character and story for each classroom. We wanted to tie the idea of Sustainability to an ongoing narrative that each class created. We first created classroom names and mascots like “The Razor Raptors” and “The Horses with Moustaches.”

We also started giving our mascots a backstory and a reason for their interest in Sustainability. One mascot’s home had been covered in trash, so he wanted to make sure that the world new how to recycle. We drew some great pictures of our mascots:

Introducing the Diggers!

Introducing the Diggers!


Introducing the Flying Monkeys!



What we Learned:

Any parent knows this but we saw firsthand how much Minecraft and Frozen dominate kids popular culture. If you need a quick example to highlight sustainability, you can’t go wrong talking about chopping down trees in Minecraft. We’ll be making a Minecraft Youtube video shortly to show how Sustainability concepts are used in the game. Many thanks to the kids at Atlas for opening our eyes to the possibilities!

What We Got Wrong:

The Kindergartners and the Grade Ones had some difficulty talking about the concepts of sustainability and conservation, but they understood why we recycle: “So stuff doesn’t get wasted.” Forward going, we’ll break the larger concepts down into smaller fields.

Best Quotes:

“Our mascot can’t be just a horse, it should be a horse with moustache.”

“Sustainability is about the choice to make a choice by choosing to be able to make choices.”

Note: This is a frighteningly accurate definition.

Sustainable School Blog

We’ll be blogging about our experiences providing sustainability education and resources to Atlas Learning Academy every Friday until the end of the school year. We’re doing this to document what we learned as well as what we need to improve upon in the future.

January 9th

We just completed our first set of classes to K-5 students at Atlas Learning Academy. Many thanks to the teachers and admin at Atlas, you made us feel so welcome!

What We Learned:

1.  Mike suffers a brief moment of deep existential panic before he enters a classroom full of students. See photo below:


Mike's Frightened Face

Mike’s Frightened Face

2. Conveying the concept of Sustainability seems to be a little more difficult than the concepts of Conservation, Protecting the Environment, or Recycling. Our working definition is that Sustainability means making choices now so that we have the ability to make choices in the future. The concept of planning for The Future is difficult for some adults, and some of the students also had difficulty grasping the idea that the choices we make today can affect us days, weeks and years to come.

 Best Quotes:

We chose to lead off our discussion with the cookie question: You can have one cookie now or two cookies tomorrow. Which would you choose?

The best answer for choosing one cookie now came from a grade fiver: “I’d take one today because who knows what’s going to happen tomorrow.”

The best answer for choosing two cookies tomorrow: “It’s two cookies, duh.”

 What We Got Wrong:

While we have several great in-class group activities planned. We chose to make the first class a discussion only class. Thirty minutes was just a bit too long to keep the students’ attention. We were clearly boring them a bit by the end of the session. We’ll be sure to have great activities for future classes to break up discussion time.

What’s Next:

We’ll be creating classroom mascots, Green Monsters, the students will name, draw, and create the backstory for their individual class mascots. We’ll use these mascots in the future to discuss aspects of sustainability.