Opal School closed in 2021. You can continue to access these resources for free at teachingpreschoolpartners.org/resource-library/.

Fifth Grade Project

Fifth Grade Project

You don’t think, “I’m going to buy some plastic.” When you go to the grocery store.~E. T. Opal 3

Or do you?

Some people do. 

Some people spend a lot of time thinking about plastic.  The children in Opal 3 have been thinking about it and in doing so have discovered that the life cycle of plastic is a system in the world is not a sustainable system.  The waste from plastic products is filling our landfills, endangering animals and the environment and affecting the health of humans.  But they also have recognized that there is a real need for plastic.   Plastic is here to stay. 



But what if, as A.R. wondered, what if we could use plastic waste to make materials to build houses?  That would both save trees and cut down on plastic garbage.


What if…all plastics could be recycled, and if more people could buy things like clothing that were made from recycled materials, there could be a whole city made from recycled plastics. ~A.W.


What if…people could redesign and eliminate plastic packaging to make it from materials that are already being recycled, maybe make yogurt containers from aluminum. ~M.M.


These ideas, many already being put into practice by innovative businesses examining the problem of waste management and looking for solutions, illustrate the ability of children to invoke imagination to invent solutions when encountering a problem.   Supporting children to trust their ability to form their own ideas, to collaborate with others, to see things from different perspectives and to share their ideas with others.  These are habits that we hope to nurture at Opal School.


“You always see trash, but you don’t really realize it.”  ~J.P.




“The plastic is like ivy creeping in and choking the life out of nature … People need to think about plastic, trash, the future of trash, why we have plastic…” ~P.K.


“Before we really looked at the trash, to see what was in it and started doing this project, I didn’t even think about trash.  Now when I see something say oh look at the packaging, that’s a lot of plastic.”  C.A.


The fifth graders in Opal 3 have been working on a project designed to share some of their thinking with the public.  It is also intended to create an exchange where they can hear the ideas from other people.  To be an event where people can take time to think and to talk with one another.


To think about plastic.

To think about the trash system.

To think about products and packaging.

To think about ideas.

To think about their connections to others in the community.

To think about their hopes for the future of children and the planet.


Tomorrow (Wednesday) the fifth grade students in Opal 3 will be working in the Children’s Museum.  They will be inviting visitors to add a part to an art installation that they have created.  They will be helping museum visitors to make flowers from non-recyclable plastic waste.  They will be inviting older children (and adults:) to write what they think.  These thoughts and flowers will be added to an image of a tree encased in ivy vines that the children in Opal 3 created from plastic waste as a metaphor describing their thinking. 


“Each flower represents hope that people understand the message.”  C.E.


What is the message?


“That people should think.” ~KU