Preschoolers learn three Rs: rescue, recycle, and reuse

On the morning of August 9, 2010, the Curriculum and Instruction Early Childhood master’s specialization, in partnership with the Artists Senior Capstone, hosted a major event with young children celebrating rescued materials called Remida Portland Reuse in the City Park Blocks. Over 200 participants engaged in three provocations with reused materials, each focused around the properties of wind, water flow, and sound, which aided in their learning about the “big idea” of movement. Children from around the city and visitors walking by the hands-on exhibits engaged in fun and thought-provoking activities such as playing drums made from reclaimed cardboard cylinders filled with various plastics, natural materials, metals, and fabrics and filled with clear plastic shower curtain liners. The drums sat on skateboard wheels so they could be easily rotated at varying speeds to generate different sounds.

GSE students asked children questions about what the sounds reminded them of in order to prompt sound from memory and contextualize sound within past experiences. Others played with hair dryers, blowing leaves away and blowing heavy and light objects into the air through long cardboard tubing. Children also sprayed water on ice sculptures (which encased colorful objects normally wasted in landfills) to watch them melt and try to recapture the prizes inside.

Curriculum imported from Italy
The Remida Center in Reggio Emilia, Italy, is a creative repurposing center that takes manufactured end-products and organizes them into a center for creative and educational use by educators and the community. Leaders from the Association of Friends of Reggio Children and Remida Center agreed to assist the GSE’s Curriculum and Instruction Early Childhood Education master’s specialization program in duplicating their Remida Center model by hosting a small study tour in April 2010. The event, Remida: Making It Our Own was led by GSE professor Will Parnell, master’s student Julianne Cullen, and community participants Marsha Kennell from the Helen Gordon Child Development Center and Dawn Kenny from Mentor Graphics Child Development Center.

Remida promotes the idea that waste materials can be resources. The center collects, exhibits, and offers alternative and reclaimed materials, obtained from unsold stock and rejects or discard materials from industrial and handicraft production, with the aim to reinvent their use and meaning. Remida is a cultural project that represents a new, optimistic, and proactive way of approaching environmentalism and building change through giving value to otherwise worthless objects, to foster new opportunities for communication and creativity in a perspective of respect for objects, the environment, and human beings.

Portland center leads the way in recycling by children
Remida creative recycling and reuse centers now approach 16 worldwide and Portland’s is the first in the United States to adopt their name, hoping to call themselves Remida Portland once accepted by Remida Reggio. Such centers are an avenue for manufacturers to reuse and repurpose materials discarded from the end-product manufacturing process, which in turn keeps thousands of pounds of material out of the landfills. These unique materials are then stored, sorted, and made available through a teaching and learning center so that teachers, children, families, and community members can see what possibilities repurposing material creates.

All of this excitement had its beginnings in the small northern Italian city of Reggio Emilia. Reggio Emilia is a city where children fully participate as citizens and adults actively pursue creative endeavors to learn together with their children while considering important civic responsibilities. These pursuits include fully funding schools for young children, allowing every child the right to a quality educational experience, reducing city waste through alternative innovations, and many other groundbreaking projects. Early childhood education at PSU has found inspiration in this important work.

PSU mission includes sustainability
Part of the PSU mission resides in the sustainability climate action plan, which seeks to reduce and reuse waste. The mission also holds goals around interdisciplinary enhancement on campus for the aims of connecting what might normally be unrelated program ideas to increase creative capacity in the disciplines. PSU’s early childhood community plans to work with art, architecture, and education students to teach and learn in our Remida Portland Center about reusing materials to reduce waste and to better manage overproduction to instill intelligent moderation as the new norm in our society.

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7 thoughts on “Preschoolers learn three Rs: rescue, recycle, and reuse

  1. I am fairly certain that the article’s claim that Portland has the USAs first Remida-type creative recycling center is false. The Remida Center was created AFTER representatives from Italy visited the Boston’s creative recycling center with Baji Rankin while Boston was hosting the first version of the Hundred Languages of Children exhibit. They loved the idea and went back to implement it in Reggio Emilia, taking with them some materials from Boston. Our own creative recycling center, the Wemagination Center, has been in operation here in Albuquerque NM since 1997.

  2. Hi Emily,

    The article isn’t specific enough on that regard and thank you for pointing that out. Our webmaster can make the appropriate changes. We are the first in the U.S. to adopt the Remida name into our center, as in Remida Portland. I love that you’ve stopped by to point out some more of the history and I’m hopeful that someday we can meet or do some of this important work together.

    In solidarity and especially for this incredible work,

    Dr. Will Parnell

  3. Dear Dr Parnell,
    I am currently a volunteer at the REMIDA Creative Reuse Centre in Perth, Western Australia and I am currently doing an M.Ed on REMIDA.
    I visited Reggio Emilia in April of this year and was very interested to learn that a new REMIDA centre will be established in the US.
    I am passionate about our REMIDA centre and am interested in your progress.

  4. Thanks for this great article and comments about other international REMIDA centers. I am investigating the possibility of putting a REMIDA type center in a multi-grade primary school in Todos Santos, BCS, Mexico as part of a doctoral project. I have been using recycled materials in art projects in my environmental ed programs for years and was inspired by the work at the Reggio Center in Italy and at the Helen Gordon EC Center in Portland, where I’m originally from. Saludos desde Mexico!!
    MEA Patricia Baum

  5. Thanks for the terrific info on REMIDA centers. I’m looking to compile a listing of REMIDA-type centers worldwide—-as a network resource for art educators. Any assistance is appreciated.

    Barbara Jenn
    American Embassy School
    New Delhi, INDIA

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