Creating Eco-Friendly Classrooms – LittleLives

Environment Friendly Living

Creating Eco-Friendly Classrooms

The master of recycling shows us how it’s done

How many of us have thought about incorporating eco-friendly spaces in our classrooms but don’t know how to go about it effectively? Wouldn’t it just be an absolute relief for someone to come in and show you the ropes? In today’s Childhood Heroes piece, we bring you someone who does just that!

Renee Saulnier (right) at the opening of the Bali Creative Reuse Center (2014)

We tracked down

Renee Saulnier

— brainchild, founder, and avid champion of

Creative Reuse for Education (CR4ED)

. CR4ED is the program through which Renee has been empowering teachers to turn their classrooms into eco-friendly spaces!

After having set up a recyclable classroom model in Bali, Renee’s passion for adding a green touch to preschool education has brought her to Singapore! Now that she’s in our town, we just had to seize the opportunity for a peek behind the formation of CR4ED!

Q: What is Creative Reuse for Education?


The basic idea of CR4ED is to train teachers to integrate recycled materials into the classroom and into different learning areas.

Teachers use recycled materials in class because they are often open-ended play items. Take a toy truck, for example. It has an intended use and I know how exactly to play with it. On the other hand, a cardboard box is open-ended — it’s just a loose part. I can imagine it to be a truck, a house, or anything else! The kids get to put them together, take them apart, and then reconstruct them into something else!

Creative Reuse School model at The Anak Atelier School, Bali (2016)

“It’s all about…reusing everyday materials and things that would normally classify as waste!”

When teachers use recycled materials, like cardboard boxes or toilet rolls, in the classroom, they’re fostering problem-solving skills and encouraging the kids to make creative connections in their minds.

Creative Reuse Tinkering at the Bali Creative Reuse Center (2015)

Having sustainable classroom materials also helps schools that don’t have have enough money; they can budget for other learning resources. It’s all about engaging teachers and children in reusing everyday materials and things that would normally classify as waste! We want to allow children to start valuing sustainability early on and to develop a creative mindset for turning waste into functional objects.

Q: Do you have any tips for introducing sustainable materials in the classroom?


Generally, the easiest way to get materials is from the families of the children. I’ve seen kids take pride in their items and actively start saving things from home, and their parents are also happy to help out. However, sometimes they also bring in items like milk or juice cartons that haven’t been washed. You have to make sure that the materials are clean coming in because the children will be using them.

Organising tools at the Bali Creative Reuse Center (2015)

Sometimes, organisation can be a bit of a challenge too! There’s the entire process of collecting, sorting, cleaning and making sure the materials are safe and usable. Maintenance is an important factor; you have to make sure the materials are organised and tidy. If your recycling corner is a mess, it won’t be something that the children value. If it doesn’t look inspiring, it loses its intention.

Q: Where did your inspiration for using recycled materials come from?


I drew a lot of inspiration from a man named

Loris Malaguzzi, who started the Reggio Emilia Approach

. A lot of my work surrounds this approach. After the second World War, Malaguzzi brought his local community together because all the schools destroyed in the war needed to be rebuilt. A sustainable approach to running schools was developed because there was a lack of materials for children to use.

“The importance…lies in creating a connection between the community and the school.”

Under the Reggio Emilia Approach, children learn in practical ways by going out into their community to experience and learn in a hands on manner. It goes sort of like this: if the kids go to a farm and develop a strong interest in the animals at the farm, teachers can help to bring that interest back to the classroom. They will help the children develop that knowledge by providing research and artefacts from the farm for the children to explore.

The importance of the Reggio Emilia Approach lies in creating a connection between the community and the school. It’s a very interest-based and hands-on learning approach that opens new doors to learning.

Bali Creative Reuse Center workshop on


led by Russel Meier (2015)

Q: How did you come up with the idea of bringing creative reuse to preschools?

The idea came from Bali, Indonesia, where I had opened a place called the Bali Creative Reuse Center. Originally, we covered it with art piece by local artists who were reusing waste in their art to make a statement; it was to show that there was a huge waste problem in Indonesia.

The center’s initial mission was to collaborate with artists and offer art workshops. We collected materials for the workshops mostly from families and some local businesses, from things found around homes and to leftover fabric from tailors and factories.

Since our studio was an open setting, children ended up coming in and creating functional objects and toys. Gradually, we began offering workshops for the children that built on what they naturally took interest in.

Q: What is the most interesting part of your job?


Being with children and watching them circulate ideas and work together.

Seeing the kids create something wacky and wild — yet fully functional — is always interesting! Every part of a child’s creation has a whole story that goes behind it; a logical thought process that’s always fascinating to hear!

“Every part of a child’s creation has a whole story that goes behind it!”

It’s the most interesting because it makes me realize that if


had been allowed opportunities to think creatively and collaboratively in the same ways, our world would have turned out so much differently!

Q: Share with us a memorable project that you helped the kids with!

Creative Reuse Tinkering, building a popcorn machine (2015)


One of my most memorable projects was one in which the children were tasked to create a mailbox.

The children wanted to have mailboxes so that they could send letters to each other as part of a literacy project. We used recycled materials to build our own mailbox instead of purchasing one. It didn’t look like a traditional mailbox but it was so creative! The kids had stuck tubes into a box so that they could send letters down the pipes, similar to a chute!

Creative reuse really allows children to come up with their own innovative ideas! There are so many opportunities for DIY in the classroom!

Q: How do you coach teachers in Singapore to be creative with recycled materials?


I’ve conducted a few workshops in which I gave the teachers some loose materials and told them to come up with a maze in half an hour. When they put their heads together and came up with a design, it got their creativity flowing. The funny thing is, I’ve seen teachers Googling for a model maze — more than once! Which misses the point of the exercise!

“It’s important to experience it for yourself firsthand, to get a feel of what it’s like to be creatively challenged.”

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