Friday, July 25, 2008

Michael Recycle: A Review - or - We Rock and That Other Grade 3 Doesn’t Rock Quite As Much - or - They Won’t Take the Cans Here If We Crush Them First

Article by Scott Tingley - July 25, 2008

This year my grade three class turned about a fifth of our classroom into a class-garden. We had tomatoes and green and jalapeno peppers, basil and cilantro, cosmos and five-foot + sunflowers, very tiny carrots and corn from Orville Redenbacher corn kernels (which made tiny, but real ears of corn). We didn’t start until after the Christmas break, and curriculum responsibilities and an unusual number of snowstorms meant that we were not able to transplant the small plants in a timely manner, but we ended up with a pretty impressive spread.

The grade one teacher at my school from this past year is transferring to a grade three class at another school. We were talking back and forth about 3rd grade stuff and the idea of having competing class gardens came up. The idea, I think, will be to grow enough peppers, tomatoes, and maybe even onions/garlic to make a pot of class grown – homemade spaghetti sauce.

We are going to win, by the way.

This teacher was in charge of our school’s recycling program and that job is passing to me this coming year, so I’m thinking of including a mulch challenge to our competition. We’ll make our own fertilizer and grow some awesome plants. Worms and rotting produce = a well rounded education. We are going to wipe the floor, in a very friendly way, with that other class.

I mention all this for a couple reasons. Firstly: Any longtime readers will know that it takes me a log of meandering to actually get to a review. I sort of take my time portaging my way around my stream of thought before finishing off with something resembling a review. Secondly: Michael Recycle, by Ellie Bethel and Alexandra Colombo inspired the concept of our little two-school competition….that we are going to win.

Michael Recycle is set in a grimy town that has been overtaken by trash - that is, until a green-caped crusader, Michael Recycle, arrives, declaring "You must stop this now! You've got to act soon. The towers of trash reach up to the moon!" Inspired by the "super-green hero," town members react by creating a "Be Greener Campaign," which includes recycling, growing their own vegetables and collecting rain for reuse. (From

The title character doesn’t really do a whole lot in the story, which is actually kind of nice, and because of this it gets a higher recommendation than it would if the hero fixed all the problems, or if the hero “held the hands” of the townsfolk while they made the changes. Michael provides the inspiration by telling the town that they need to change, and the town does the rest. This is what is happening now. We are being told to change by reliable sources and then it is up to us to listen and change.

The common sense lesson that I take away is that we can’t expect anyone to be the hero besides us. We can make a difference. I like it.

Michael Recycle was actually out in time for this past Earth Day, but I never got around to it until now….I mean I left it until now so that you interested teachers could pick up this book over the summer and make a plan to implement the concepts and ideas into your own class and/or school. Recycle cans and paper? Of course. Reuse old junk? What teacher/school doesn’t find uses for everything until it falls apart? But we can maybe do more. Grow food? Great idea, especially if you have windows in the right spot, or the right climate for a school garden. Save rainwater to water plants? What a great idea! It wouldn’t take much, and snow, for us, would be even easier to collect. A general change in attitudes? It’s worth a try.

I thought it was clever of the book to include GREEN ideas after the conclusion of the story. Some are pretty obvious, but there are some that are pretty obvious and often ignored: like turning off the faucet while brushing your teeth, or turning off the computer when you are not using it (are the computers shut off in your school when everyone goes home?).

I like this book, and it is going to be one of the first ones I read to my class this September. Collecting rain water at school. Brilliant!

IDW Publishing

· ISBN-10: 1845392817

· ISBN-13: 978-1845392819

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