Waste Management, Kindergarten Style


We’ve had a pretty big shift recently at our school.  And it’s all to do with garbage.  Yes, we’ve completely changed how we deal with garbage at our school.

Now we call it Waste Management.

When we returned to school this fall, we were aware that change was afoot.  West Vancouver Municipality, like the rest of Metro Vancouver, had declared anything from plants and animals (and biodegradable) to be considered as organic waste and not garbage.  Therefore, organic waste must be separated from the regular garbage collection.

With 21 students in each of our Kindergarten classrooms, eating two to three times a day, and packaged hot lunches four times a week, we create a fair amount of waste.

As experienced teachers, we know that how we start off in September is going to affect us, and our students, for the remainder of the school year.  So although these changes were not going to become official until January 2015, we did not want to start routines, especially ones for an idea as big as waste management, and have to change them mid-year.  There’s been some gentle tweaking here and there, but for the most part the the routines and systems we’ve establish since the fall have been our modus operandi.  For more on the importance of Kindergarten classroom routines, click here.

It is an expectation that our entire student body at Ridgeview, from Kindergarten to Grade 7, learn to separate organics, dry paper recyclables, and garbage/waste items at school this year.

Under our Principal’s leadership, our school has implemented three main systems in our classrooms:  an Organic Waste can, the blue Recycling Bin and a Pack In/Pack Out Initiative for recess and lunch.

In our classroom there are two sorting bins:

Organic Waste Canphoto 1-2

In the Organic Waste can, only four items can be thrown in:

  • Paper towels
  • Wet paper
  • Pencil shavings
  • Tissue


We don’t have a monitor for our Organics Garbage Can, as our children are typically checking with us first if something can go in.  They are learning this routine well, developing independence and looking to the other students if they are uncertain about what to do.


photo 2-2Blue Recycling Bin for Mixed Paper

We’ve noticed the children are very used to the blue recycling bin.  So much so that they are often asking if they can put plastic containers in it like they must do at home.  Unfortunately, we cannot do that at school.  It’s only for dry paper, paper scraps, and charts we’ve finished using in class.

Recess and Lunch–Pack In/Pack Out Initiative

This has been the most challenging of all the waste management initiatives.

This year, students are learning that they are responsible for all food items that they bring into Ridgeview. 

Essentially, any waste our students create from the food they’ve packed in to school (food packaging, peelings and cores, napkins, leftover food) must be packed out at the end of each school day.  All waste must go home to be sorted.

We need you, the children’s parents, to support your child (and the classroom and school routines) by sending a ziploc, or plastic bag, everyday to school for your child’s pack out.  

Some parents have arranged with their children to simply put the food waste and packaging from the day’s food loose in the lunch kit and so far, that seems to going well.  If you do not send a lunch kit to school with your child, then you must send a ziploc or plastic bag for the food waste.


photo 2-3Other parents send snacks and lunch in reusable containers, thereby eliminating the food packaging, and any uneaten food stays in the container.



photo 1-3


Here’s what your children are doing with the pack out of the food waste and packaging.


We have to say that the Kindergarten children have taken quickly to this system and are very proficient at getting their food and packaging waste into the ziploc.  They have shown considerable improvement at getting the bags “zipped” closed.

Hot Lunch

The Hot Lunch days have proven to be trickier.  There is a lot of packaging associated with this program.  Here’s what we’re doing for each day.

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Pasta Day Monday




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Sushi Tuesday



photo 4-2Pizza Thursdays. The Pizza company takes away the boxes to be recycled, and the children can take their leftovers home in their ziploc.



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Wrap and Sandwich Friday



As you can see, sending your child with a large ziploc is better if he or she receives a hot lunch.


photo 3-3Booster Juice Wednesdays (every second Wednesday).  After the children have finished their drinks, the cups must be rinsed out and the cup, lid and straw are thrown into a special can designated for Booster Juice recycling.  Our Grade 7 monitors help us with this task.


We’re extremely proud of the Kindergarten.  The children know these routines well; they know them as the only way to manage their food waste at school. The Kindergarten is also the only grade in the entire school which does not have to change habits of old.

Change is healthy, but we all know change can be hard as well.  Therefore….we won’t comment specifically on how the teaching staff is coping with food waste and sorting in the staffroom, but let’s just say that old dogs can learn new tricks….

Library Visit – March 23-27, 2015

We’re delighted to be back at school, with all of our Kindergarten children who have grown so tall since the holiday and who are maturing so beautifully… Grade One’s in training, that’s who they are now!  We see all the benefits of our collective hard work in our classrooms, teachers, parents and children working together, and we look forward to an exciting third term with our little people.

We also wanted to say “Hi!” (we’re waving and smiling at you!) to all the UBC Teacher Candidates who followed us on twitter (@selfregteacher) over the Spring Break.  Welcome to The Self-Regulated Teacher and our Kindergarten classrooms!


Spring is in the Air in the Kindergarten!  We’re enjoying the warm weather, playing outside without our coats at recess and knowing that Easter celebrations are around the corner.

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Mrs. Kennedy, our Teacher-Librarian, kicked off Spring activities by reading, Fletcher and the Springtime Blossoms, by Julia Rawlinson, to our classes this week.  This is the third Fletcher story we’ve read this year.  We love this adorable little fox!




The children shared what they know about Spring, and this provides us an photo 4-1excellent starting point for us to talk about the seasonal changes from Winter to Spring next week.

Before the Spring Break, we got a little head start on a gorgeous Spring art project.  We just hung them up this week.

We call our paintings “Starry Night…City at Night,” as these were inspired by Vincent Van Gogh’s “The Starry Night.”  But look at the beautiful Spring colours we used for our whirls and swirls background!


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We have to credit Patty Palmer at Deep Space Sparkle, for another fabulous Kindergarten art idea!  Thank you, Patty!

The Self-Regulated Teacher’s Top 5 Posts for Term Two

Thank you to all the readers (and lurkers) for taking the time to visit The Self-Regulated Teacher this term. We really appreciate the invaluable feedback we’ve received from so many of you, classroom parents, friends and colleagues.  Thanks to everyone for the retweets, the comments, the “likes,” and for following us on our website and twitter (@selfregteacher).

We want to give a special thank you to our own West Vancouver School Superintendent, Chris Kennedy (cultureofyes.ca @chrkennedy) for his continued support in faithfully reading our blog and retweeting many of our posts which brings traffic to our site from educators near and far.  Thank you, Chris!  We very much appreciate the time you spend in reading our stories.


images-1The Spring Break holiday has officially begun and we’re dreaming about blue skies and sunshine.   Looking for some good reading?

In case you missed them, here are the top five most read posts from The Self-Regulated Teacher during our second term in school.  We’re giving you the SparkNotes version.  Click on the link for the original post.

Your Kindergarten Child’s Good Healthphoto 2-2

You Kindergarten Child’s good health affects us all.  When your children are feeling healthy they are better able to self-regulate their emotions and behaviour, making it easier for them to focus on playing and learning in the classroom.  When your children are feeling sick, they find it difficult to cope at school.  As adults, we can manage a runny nose, a cough and a general feeling of malaise at work; your children cannot manage these symptoms at school.  When your children are feeling poorly, they need to stay at home with their parents, and get better.  (Full Version)

About Us

Christy and I are Kindergarten teachers in the West Vancouver School District.  We’ve been friends, colleagues and teaching partners for over 20 years.  We have both taught everything from Kindergarten up to and including Grade 4, and Learning Assistance.  We also lead full and busy lives with our husbands and families.  We each have two teenagers still in school.  We’ve been asked how we find the time to write for our website and here’s the thing:  with our kids being older and more independent, we find that we have more time to pursue our professional passions:  teaching Kindergarten children and parent education. (Full version)

Let’s Get to School on Time

One of the most important ways to be involved in your child’s education is to bring your child to school on time.  Arriving on time allows your children to be present for all the morning routines your child’s teacher has established to help set the tone for the day.

Being on time is a life skill that affects all of us, whether we’re in school or reporting for work.  It shows respect for your child’s teacher and the other students who arrive on time, ready to learn; and demonstrates to your child that you, too, value punctuality and reliability as important character traits. (Full Version)

A Typical Day in Kindergarten

Our Kindergarten day officially starts at 8:50 am.  Our students line-up to wait quietly and patiently, under parent supervision, for the teacher to open the classroom door.  Following the second bell we join the rest of school in singing “O Canada”; the daily announcements and attendance follow and then we can proceed to Activity Time, our first playtime of the day, with our friends.  (Full Version)

photo 3-2Digital Literacy in Kindergarten

Our Penguin Digital Literacy Projects was our first foray into technology with the Kindergarten this year.  Supported by our Grade 7 Big Buddies, we researched a variety of topics about Penguins and created a page for each one using the app “Book Creator” on the iPad.  Each lesson was introduced with a Mystery Box Inquiry and we represented our learning through our e-book creations.  (Full Version)


Celebrating the End of Term Two

Today is the end of term and a time to celebrate our learning!IMG_3550

Here are some of the highlights of the second term:

Alphabet Letters:  we learned the names, sounds and correct formation of alphabet letters up to S.  We’ll finish up the rest of our letters in the coming term.




Numbers:  we’re developing number concepts <10, printing the correct formation and counting through a variety of math centres.



Valentine’s Day Party:  we exchanged Valentine cards with our friends and had a sweet party as well!

Chinese New Year Celebrations:  we made Chinese dragons, ate a photo 1-1Chinese banquet and received “lucky money” in red envelopes!

Winter Sports–Ice-skating:  we worked on our ice-skating skills in group lessons with our Kindergarten friends.

Pink Day:  we stood together as a community and focused on kind, friendly and helpful behaviours.




IMG_3497Penguin Digital Literacy Project with our Grade 7 Buddies:  using the app “Book Creator” on the iPad we’ve each made a digital book focusing on five aspects of penguins (habitat, appearance, diet, young, life cycle).


Art:  we’ve created amazing Art this term, from penguin and snowmen crafts, to painted  owls

IMG_3548and finishing up with our Lon Po Po painted panels.


Student-Led Conferences:  an opportunity to share with our parents the learning we’ve done this term, where we took the lead to show them the amazing work we’ve completed in our Alphabet Books, scrapbooks and more.

What an amazing group of Kindergarten children we teach.  They’ve learned so much, and our Student-Led Conferences were a fitting end to a power packed term.

Sunday, March 8, will be the last blog post for the term, and then we’ll be back for Term 3.

Mystery Box Inquiry: Penguin Edition

We began Mystery Box Inquiry as a way of developing questioning skills with our students, which is an integral part of the Inquiry Process and one of the curriculum competencies for Science in Kindergarten in the Ministry of Education Curriculum Drafts.

(Many thanks to Lorraine Hartley, our friend and Kindergarten teacher colleague, who shared this wonderful idea at one of our Kindergarten teacher meetings.)

We would place an object inside the box, related to our current theme or area of study.  We explained to the children they would have to ask ten questions about what might be inside, before they could make a guess, and then we would show them what was inside the Mystery Box.  We would answer their questions to the best of our ability and from the information gathered, the children would be able to make an informed guess.

We took a simple wooden chest, decorated it, and designated it our “Mystery Box.”   photo 1

The Penguin Mystery Box Inquiry is actually part of a bigger project this year:  creating digital books using the app, “Book Creator”, on the iPad with our Grade 7 Buddies.  We discussed our Penguin digital literacy projects two weeks ago.  Each object we placed in the Mystery Box was a clue to the topic we were going to research with our Buddies during our weekly Buddy Time.

We love penguins, so we chose the penguin life cycle as part of our Big Idea on Change for Kindergarten.  Change affects all aspects of our lives from personal, physical and emotional changes for the Kindergarten, to our seasonal environmental changes, to our families, animals and even our own perspectives.  It’s a Big Idea all Kindergarteners can understand as they not only experience change every day in the classroom, but they develop the valuable skills of flexibility and resilience as they learn to cope with change.

For the first Mystery Box Inquiry, we wanted to get a sense of the children’s questioning skills in a formal learning situation and establish a baseline.  Many Kindergarten children are already learning to ask good questions; but we suspected they would be more likely to guess what’s inside the box as opposed to asking questions.

We recorded each question on an iPad as quickly as we could, to keep the momentum of our lesson going.  Each question is a direct quote, not corrected for grammar, so this process remains authentic.  We’ve provided just a sampling of questions.

photo 2Mystery Box No. 1-Penguin Habitat (rubber ball globe to show where the Antarctic was located)

  • Could it be a stuffed bunny?
  • Is it a note?
  • Is it silver?

We were really looking to teach our children that the frame of certain kinds of questions (Who, What, When, Where, Why?, or the 5 Ws) get a better response than a question  such as “Is it a…?” where the answer is going to be either “yes” or “no.”

We wanted to show them that a well worded question would elicit a lot more information from the teacher!  But then we got these little treasures …

  • What colour is it?
  • What shape is it?
  • What does it sound like?

After the 10th question it was time to guess.  We had a couple of guesses (“the sea,” “a village”) before one of the children guessed “the whole world.”  It was really thrilling to hear that!  We passed the globe ball around and everyone got to hold the whole world in their hands for a few moments.

Mystery Box No. 2-Penguin Diet (Lego fish)photo 4

This Mystery Box Inquiry presented the immediate problem of what to use for an object, as fresh krill, squid or fish, which makes up the penguin diet, was not going to be an option.  So we decided to use the fish from the Lego Table (it was clean and dry), and explained to the children that what was in the Mystery Box was not the real thing, but something that would represent it.  We would answer any question as though the object inside the Mystery Box was real.

We decided to do two things to help the children this time:  1.  reframe any question that was going to get a “yes” or “no” answer into a 5Ws question; and 2. scaffold each of the questions by going back and reviewing the previous questions.

We were getting a lot of repeat questions, and wanted to increase the variety of questions asked.  Here’s a few examples.

  • What colour is it?
  • What part of the world does it live in?
  • Is it a fish? (A guess which we deferred to the end of the questioning session, and we did come back to it when it was time to guess)
  • What does it eat?
  • What is it like? (Reframed to “What types of things does it do?”)
  • What does it look like?
  • Does it have a sound? (Reframed to “What kinds of sounds does it make?”)

The questions are really terrific, and you can see “What colour is it?” and “What part of the world does it live in?” stem directly from the first inquiry.

The children guessed right away it was a fish, and they were actually quite delighted to see it was Lego.  As a matter of fact, amid the excited chatter as we were passing the fish around, one child was heard to say, “I wondered where that fish had gone!”

photo 3Mystery Box No. 3-Penguin Appearance (Paper Penguin Craft)

We have an adorable collection of stuffed penguins, but not one of them would fit in the Mystery Box!  So we went with a paper penguin craft because it fit.  Once again we answered the questions as though we had a real penguin.  We’re still continuing to scaffold the children’s questions, and bringing their attention to any question that begins with one of the 5Ws.

We want to treat you to the entire list of questions.  It’s truly incredible what the children are asking.  We had our first “how” and “when” questions and it was exciting to be able to provide a thorough, and hopefully satisfactory, answer.

1.  How does it move?

2.  What colour is it?

3.  What part of the world does it live in?

4.  What does it live in?

5.  What shape is it?

6.  What does it look like?

7.  What does it eat?

8.  What penguin is it? (We had to defer this question until the end but how wonderful that this child was already aware of the many species of penguins).

9.  When does it die?

10. What does it feel like?

One of the many reasons why we love teaching Kindergarten children is how they live in the moment, a valuable lesson for us all.  After our guessing, and as we took the little craft penguin out of the Mystery Box, one of the children asked, “Is that the craft we’re going to make right now?”  All thoughts of our Mystery Box, questioning and digital literacy projects were gone…replaced by a small toilet roll penguin.

By the time you read this, we will have completed the Mystery Box Inquiry:  Penguin Edition.photo-7  We had two more clues to present before we finished our digital literacy projects to show at our Student-Led Conferences.  We were delighted with how far the children came in their questioning skills over the past five weeks, and their patience in waiting for us to record the questions, reframing and scaffolding every question along the way.

We’re looking forward to seeing how these inquisitive learners continue to deepen their learning by asking higher level questions and developing their critical thinking skills in the next Mystery Box Inquiry!