Plastic ≠ bad?
Why oh why are so many people hating on plastic?
Is plastic really the devil? How did plastic get such a bad rep? And honestly, where did everyone get the idea to just dump it?
Let's delve deeper...
Ok so plastic is big news at the moment. With much of the Western world moving towards a more sustainable approach to living, plastic (in particular single use plastic) is coming under intense scrutiny. Our relationship with plastic in the home has been the focus for some time but now attention is turning towards sustainability within the workplace. In the Early Years sector there has been a combination of factors which have contributed to this approach. Many people on Instagram have commented on the BBC Programme 'War on Plastic' which highlighted how baby wipes contain plastic, really shocked them at a time when they felt they were already making great strides towards a more sustainable environment.
So the baby wipes have been ditched (mostly) in favour for reusable solutions.
The biggest factor contributing towards the demise of plastic in our sector currently is the tremendous push which schools and settings are making towards neutral spaces. It started with the removal of colour from our spaces - displays, signage, resources. Now it's about the materials themselves - 'are they made from wood or metal, perhaps glass? If not, let's get rid!' For those of you lucky so and so's who have come to my classroom you know that I very much believe that too much colour can have an overstimulating effect. So I go for hessian, 'neutral colours' such as beige, black and white. I also like a good set of natural resources in addition to glassware and metal resources. BUT I also have plastic.
Why? Well because I've looked for evidence to demonstrate to me that a child can learn better by using wooden objects rather than plastic, no luck. I then looked inwardly to anecdotal evidence from my colleagues, my TA's and myself and questioned whether children engaging in play with natural objects did display high engagement and deeper learning, alas no such tales have emerged.
So can someone explain to me why so many settings are getting rid of their plastic? Worse still, why are some people actually putting it in the bin?
The rise of the natural classroom
Let's reframe the situation
Instead of thinking of each item in your setting as 'plastic or natural?' why not think, 'open or closed?' By this point I hope you've caught up with my article on what open-ended play is. I also have other articles detailing what open and closed ended activities and resources are (as well as questions.)
If we were able to look at resources in our settings for their educational value and the opportunities they bring rather than discarding materials simply for being made out of the out of fashion materials, perhaps we could improve the education for our children.
Final few words...
Plastic was designed to be durable, long lasting, safe and hygienic. It serves these purposes well in most of our settings. In some ways people rushed towards replacing everyday objects with plastic (e.g. glass tumblers are suddenly plastic everywhere you see children). In many ways though plastic still serves these intended purposes and we shouldn't be too quick to remove plastic which, where used correctly, can be the most cost effective and useful material we have in our settings.