Cycle 2: Garbage, Waste Disposal and Composting

Once the first goal of developing a sense of personal hygiene was successfully achieved, the next cycle of our action research involved making the students aware of the cleanliness of the surroundings and waste disposal. This was planned to be implemented in three stages of action. The first extended their person hygiene to the use of materials and resources, the second was to engage in recyling, and the third was to experience the process of composting where food scraps can become food for new plants.   The goal was to see if students could take more ownership of the effect on the environment. 

The first stage would be to teach the students to ensure that they maintain cleanliness in their living areas, classroom and the school premises in general. Demonstration of maintaining their living areas and the classroom neat, clean and tidy became the goal of every teacher.   Students were helped to  arrange and organize their personal belongings, to avoid littering of papers, pencil shavings etc.  These practices did help to make the children recognize the need to keep things neat and tidy. The teachers and the support staff did encounter many challenges in this direction as it also meant formation of new habits and the change of old habits which had contributed to unclean surroundings.
  1. Cycle 1 Research Question:  If we help the students to participate in the process of organizing materials and disposal of waste products, how will this affect their understanding and ownership  of the proceses of  use, organization, reuse, and recycling of materials. 

The second stage in this direction was to teach the students about waste and garbage disposal. As a first step in this direction, dust bins labelled “Wet” and “Dry” were set up in all the classrooms and the living areas of the children. The children were taught to dispose the waste from food and other garbage in their respective classrooms and their living areas in these bins by segregating the wet and dry waste. Careful monitoring was done by the teachers and the support staff to ensure that the students follow these steps. Videos of Japanese students cleaning their toilets as part of their education were shown to the students to teach the children the need to take ownership to maintain cleanliness and dispose of the garbage accordingly.

The third stage was creating compost. Since the school is a boarding school for these children, on a daily basis there is a lot of vegetable waste that is generally thrown out as garbage. The idea of using this waste to make compost in the school was suggested. A group of teachers were identified to help students take lead and work to create the composting process consistently.

The teachers sought the necessary permissions, identified the location for the compost pit, identified some students whom they were confident that they will lead the effort.  We hoped this would motivate the other students to be actively involved in the process.


The outcomes were mixed with some students developing new habits and some teachers being very careful to support the learning of these new habits. However we continued to experience some resistance from students, parents, teachers and staff.

Students were not always clear on why they should do want in the past has been handled by the adults at this school.  We needed to help the students understand that this activity  was also part of their education. The luxury of having support staff in the school and in some families does not always provide students the opportunity to take ownership of these tasks. Even when the students came from backgrounds that could not afford this help and where their parents are the support staff, the children understand that the government is supporting them and that they are eligible for privileges in the school and hence resisted doing some of the tasks that we are trying to teach them.  

Parents also wondered why students were doing the work that others generally did.  They felt that these tasks should be done by others so students could focus their time on the regular curriculum.  They did not see how their students were learning science and social science concepts through problem solving. 

Another hindrance that was observed in our endeavour for habit formation was the lack of consistent enforcement by some of the teachers which created slackness in the children to follow these rules. The lack of consistency across the school made it diffiucult to change the culture of the school to one where students were made responsible for new tasks. 

Some of the support staff was somewhat resistent in helping students to participate in these waste managemant activies.  It was an uphill task to get the the support staff to hold back to enable the students to participate. A roadblockthat we experienced was that the support staff were reluctant to let the students do tasks that in the past had been their work.  They were insecure and afraid of losing their jobs and had to be convinced about the objective of teaching the students extended their learning of the curriculum.

Reflections on Cycle 2:  (some soon) 

Cycle 1
Personal Hygiene 
This Cycle:
Waste and Composting
Cycle 3:
Student Leadership
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