Students on the Chillicothe campus are learning about the three R's -- reduce, reuse and recycle -- in a way that will enhance their teaching skills in elementary classrooms.
Early childhood education students in an integrated curriculum class were assigned a project to construct miniature cities, towns and farming villages out of material that was otherwise targeted for disposal. In addition to construction, the students worked in teams to determine each town's background, such as history, development, industry, financial health and major communication outlets.
Barbara Trube, associate professor of early childhood education, believes the project teaches valuable and practical lessons.
"This is a tale of finding and using 'trash to treasure' items that will make these OU-C students better prepared for today's classroom," Trube said. "When these students are professional educators, they will learn that resources are tight. In the future, they will need to use all of the resources they have. I want them to think creatively and to recognize the available resources that are inexpensive or free."
The project helped students to identify everyday objects that can become learning tools -- use your imagination and bottle caps can be used for counting exercises.
According to the assignment, the students were to incorporate lessons that could be applied across the curriculum in several different academic disciplines. For example, measuring distance and gauging shapes involves math skills, learning street names involves language arts, discussing the water cycle and energy sources includes science aptitude and determining government roles incorporates social studies lessons.
"I thought it was a fun way to be creative with using just a box and normal art supplies," said Samantha Soales, an early childhood education major from Greenfield McClain High School who said she was inspired to create a farm community because it is similar to her home town. "It allows us to be creative and to learn different craft ideas to use in the classroom. Plus, it involves recycling, so it helps the environment."
Trube said one of the goals is for students to learn that sustainability is good for the environment and for the classroom.
"They found that combining the aspects of 'green' and education creates a situation where the two pursuits build on each other," Trube said.
Student Abby Roe, also from Greenfield McClain High School, explained that the main point was to re-use the objects you have at home that would otherwise be thrown away.
"As future teachers, we can hopefully help get children to think about going green and building lifelong sustainability habits," Roe said.
Some of the miniature cities included Roundtown, to reflect Circleville; First Capital, which included many aspects of Chillicothe; and University Ridge, which had an agricultural base. The lessons to be learned from the construction were as diverse as the structures according to Soales.
"This activity can be used in many different lesson plans, from an English activity where the children make up a story about their box town to a science lesson about different seasons and when farmers plant and harvest," Soales said. "It could also lead to diversity discussions because so many communities have so many unique citizens or even a math lesson about how many libraries we have or how many houses are in the town," she added.
"I know I will use this type of project in my classroom," Soales said. "By just making a box town -- whether it is just one building or a town -- it helps the environment."