Class levels







Originally the children were supposed to go to the public playground opposite the school in order to have a picnic. But because of rain, the picnic and the associated extension activities were conducted inside the children’s classroom. A ground sheet made of plastic was laid on the floor to designate the area for the picnic. Instead of using props for the picnic (e.g. plastic food), the teachers had asked the children’s parents beforehand to prepare real food and place the food items inside the children’s lunchboxes. Junk food was discouraged for health reasons and also because of the often bulky packaging materials that come with such food.

During the in-class picnic, the children learnt about what types of food they could enjoy in a picnic (different children had different food), activities that they could do (e.g. it is alright to chat with one another in a picnic), and rules that the children need to pay attention to (e.g. clean up your own mess afterwards).

1) Children learnt about the differences between real food and plastic toy food: some children dropped their food on the floor. Normally in an imaginative play situation involving plastic food, children would simply pick up the food and pretend to eat it again. But the teachers explained to the children that the real food got soiled, and the children learnt that real food would go to waste if they were not careful with it.

2) Because real food rather than plastic toy food was used, there was a wider variety of food items present in the classroom. Also, because the food was all consumed by the end of the learning activities, there was no need for the school to sterilize or store any plastic food items.

3) Although the groundsheet was made of plastic, it was easy to clean and the sheet was used repeatedly by different groups of children on the same day.



It was a free-play session. The children were free to visit the various learning corners in the classroom. One of the corners was the toy corner. Instead of seeing commercially available toys, the toys in the corner were all self-made. There were football board games (Figure 1) and vending machines from which you can get “surprises” (Figure 2): plastic eggs which contain small toy items. The football board game was made from a shoebox, disposable chopsticks, old clothes pegs, and a paper football. The clothes pegs served as the football players and were attached to the chopsticks. By rolling the chopsticks, the football players would “kick” the paper football to one of the goals. The vending machines were created from boxes with compartments inside. By turning a knob made from the cardboard part of a toilet roll, previously discarded plastic eggs with toys inside would roll out from the machines. All the construction materials for the toys were previously “waste” materials which would have otherwise gone to landfill.

The children were not supposed to play on their own. During the visit, there were always two to three children being engaged with one of these self-made toys. Although there were children waiting to play with the self-made toys, the children were happy to wait for their turn.

1) Although the self-made toys themselves may not look as “attractive” as commercially available toys, the children were happily playing these toys with their friends. The engagement with the toys was sustained and lasted for at least 5 minutes for each group of 2 to 3 children. In other words, self-made toys can sustain children’s attention because of the children’s special attachment towards them.

2) Because the toys were not as strong as plastic toys, every now and then some parts fell off from the toys. This happened twice in the observations. Instead of going to the teachers for help, the children tried to repair the toys by putting the parts together again. This showed that the children were using strategies to “prolong” the lives of their toys so that they would not need to dismantle the toys and put the various components into different recycling bins.

3) The fact that the children did not ask for more self-made toys showed that the children can put aside their immediate needs (i.e. “I want to play with the toy now.”). This is an important first step towards responsible consumption.



It was a free-play session. The children were free to visit the various learning corners in the classroom. One of the corners was a snack store. This corner displayed different snacks that were made from recyclable materials. In this corner activity, some children pretended to be the customers, while others pretended to be the staff of the snack store. The customers needed to rate the service provided by staff on a feedback form. The staff member with the highest rating would get a reward.

1) There was an avoidance of plastic toys. Although the self-made snacks might be less “realistic” than plastic snack items, the children enjoyed the activity. 3 to 4 children played in this snack store area each time.

2) The children were not rough with their self-made snack food items. A child commented, “It (pointing to the snack) might fall apart. So I need to be more careful.” This showed that the children had an understanding of the need to conserve resources. Instead of thinking about “getting a replacement”, the children took great care in preserving their toys so that no replacement was needed.