Youth Hands-on Environmental Education

Experiential learning is one of the best ways to engage students through hands-on experiences. It allows them to connect basic knowledge and theories to real-world situations, making them better problem solvers. Orcas Island Elementary School teacher, Jennifer Johnston, recently provided about 20 first grade students, along with five parents, the opportunity to learn about environmental studies by setting up a tour of Orcas Recycling Services/The Exchange.

The group started the tour at the “Z-wall” where they learned about how customers make decisions about disposing of both their garbage, and more importantly, their recycling. Through touch they learned how to distinguish between an aluminum can and a steel can, so they can help recycle and educate in their own homes.  The tour was conducted by volunteer docents John Gratch and Jim “Duff” Duffield.

After the Z-wall the group took a short walk down to the tipping floor where they learned how bulk trash is dropped off by islanders and then pushed into large trailers for transportation off island, and eventually to the huge landfill at Roosevelt, WA. The big pieces of equipment, like the front loader and backhoe, were hits with the kids.

The last stop for the group was a visit to Big Blue, the glass crusher. Operator Connor Palmatian explained to the students how the equipment works and provided a demonstration by crushing glass. Each student got to fill a baggie with the crushed glass as a souvenir. The tour wrapped up at The Exchange where the kids got to look around, and select a book to take home.

The tour guides enjoyed introducing recycling to the students, and appreciated their interest and questions. If anyone in the community would like to set up a tour for a group, class or club, please contact Orcas Recycling Services at to start the process. We are also offering scheduled tours throughout the summer.