NJDEP/ANJR Outstanding Achievement in Recycling Education Award

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I was recently awarded an Outstanding Achievement Award from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Association of New Jersey Recyclers.

“Since 2010, David Alexander, Senior Naturalist at the Essex County Environmental Center, has been facilitating recycling field trips for students and developing curriculum with the goal of increasing recycling awareness and participation. David’s work has inspired students to adopt stewardship practices, not only within their individual schools, but also in their surrounding communities and natural areas.
David’s curriculum looks at specific data per municipality and allows students to use math to calculate average resident rates of waste disposal and recycling. His knowledge of the local recycling system provides students with an accurate portrayal and understanding of what happens to their waste and recyclables. David Alexander fostered a recycling curriculum that over the last six years has grown into a highly successful program that is authentic and engages students in a way that turns apathy into action.”



and some very sweet thank yous.

To learn about the recycling programs check out the program offerings on the brochure. 


Buzz Into Action with 30 Minute Recycled Crayon Bugs

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Any elementary educator is sure to amass a collection of bits and pieces of crayons overtime. With a muffin tin you can easily melt and recycle crayons into shapes of your interest, in my case butterflies, ladybugs and bees.  I’ll most likely use them for little gifts, prizes, recycling programs and bug birthday parties or as a fundraiser.  To make them you or your students can place them in a solar oven, leave them to melt in the sun (I place them in a gardening coldframe) or pre-heat your kitchen oven to 225F.  There is no need to coat the molds in oil as the crayons pop out easily when hardened. After about 30 minutes in the solar oven, a few hours in full summer sun (especially on concrete or a hot deck) or ten minutes in a kitchen oven they are fully melted.  You can place them in the freezer to speed up the hardening process or just leave them on a counter or in the shade.  About ten minutes in the freezer and they pop right out or 25 minutes on the counter.  Be extremely careful not to spill the liquid crayon as it hardens on contact with whatever it hits and is extremely difficult to remove (from experience).

As per the Crayola website: “The basic ingredients contained in Crayola Crayons are paraffin wax and color pigment. These ingredients are the same for all Crayola Crayon colors, with some modifications in special effects crayons.  Crayola Crayons begin to soften at around 105 degrees Fahrenheit and they have a melting point between 120-147 degrees Fahrenheit. The melting point is the same for all regular Crayola Crayons, however, because of the density and amount of pigment included in various crayons, the thickness or viscosity of the melted mixture will vary”

Recycled Crayon Examples.  Many made with a solar oven.

Recycled Crayon Examples. Many made with a solar oven.

Recycled Crayon Bugs Packaged For Sale

Crayon Insects Packaged For Sale

Try melting them in a Solar Oven.  You won't have to stand around the kitchen.

Try melting them in a Solar Oven. You won’t have to stand around the kitchen.

insect crayons

Crayon bits hardening in freezer

insect crayons

Crayon bits melted in oven

insect crayons

Crayon bits melting in oven

insect crayons

Crayon bits in oven

David Alexander is author of the Buzz Into Action & Hop Into Action Science Curricula.  He specializes in making nature accessible to people and wildlife.  You can follow him at

Paper Making – Recycling into Action

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When teaching students about recycling its helpful to demystify the process by which our trash can be turned back into treasure so they have the confidence to know that what they recycle will really be reused.  Paper making does just that as students use hands-on group work to turn old fliers, hand-outs, homework assignments and even old tests and quizzes into new paper.

Once dry you can use the paper for nature journals, bookmarks, gift tags, gift cards and more.

Nature’s Recyclers


Recently, I’ve been visiting a lot of schools focusing on recycling education. We do many different activities depending on the time allowed and age taught.  We discuss what can be recycled and why, read a story about “the day the trash came out to play”, play litter bits by working together to clean up a mess and putting things in the proper container followed by hitting “the easy button”.We also play a Velcro “How Long Your Garbage Will Last” litter time line game, make recycled paper with blenders and screens, decide on the scenario best for the environment comparing paper and plastic bags (choose canvas), silverware vs. plasticware (choose the spork), paper towels vs. cloth towel (choose to shake dry), reusable coffee/water bottles versus disposable and so on.  We also look closely at green building materials (recycled plumber/etrex boards, recycled glass tiles, recycled tire shingles, recycled clothing carpeting and so on.) The most exciting moment is always focusing on nature’s recyclers and how we can compost food waste to make soil diverting even more waste from the landfill. Bringing out red wigglers and millipedes always makes for a memorable visit for any age classroom.

Visiting Hillside Elementary School, Livingston. West Essex Tribune.

Litter Timeline Game

Litter Timeline Game

How Long Your Litter Lasts Timeline

How Long Your Litter Lasts Timeline                           #Garbage Graveyard

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