Washtenaw County Recycling Education

The Washtenaw Schools Recycling Program is a partnership between Ecology Center, local schools, Washtenaw County Public Works, Recycle Ann Arbor, and Steven’s Disposal to provide recycling service and education free to participating schools.

The program:

  • started in 2016 with 8 schools and has grown to include 27 schools from 8 districts in 2020. 

  • recovered over 400,000 lbs of recycling during the 2018-2019 school year.

  • provides recycling education workshops and resources to more than 3,000 students and staff annually.

As program partners, the Ecology Center is responsible for developing and delivering recycling education for students and staff. If you are affiliated with one of the program’s participating schools, you are eligible for ongoing, free recycling education.  Use our online registration form to request educational support or contact our program coordinator at [email protected] to discuss options.

Virtual Visits

We are excited to announce that our recycling workshops for both students and staff will be going virtual this year!  Many of our familiar in-school workshops will now be available in a new interactive online format. 

Our goals are to:

•    Ensure that all schools that participate in the Washtenaw County Recycling Program have access to recycling education and ongoing support.

•    Faithfully adapt our hands-on trainings so that the content and learning experience can be shared online and completed at school or at home and in compliance with social distancing guidelines. 


How do Ecology Center lessons benefit my school community?

The Ecology Center’s recycling workshops work together to support a strong recycling system in your school, a culture of environmental stewardship, and civic responsibility.  Age-appropriate activities are recommended for specific grade-ranges or adult audiences, including specific training resources for custodial staff, teaching staff, and students and their families. Data from previous years demonstrates an increase in knowledge about recycling and decrease in contamination found at schools.

Do I have to pay for educational resources?

Sponsorship from the Washtenaw County Department of Public Works allows us to offer our online workshops and trainings FREE to Washtenaw County schools participating in the county’s recycling program.

What do I get when I request an online workshop for my students and staff?

You get online access to the program of your choice. Each workshop is self-contained, consisting of a pre-recorded video with features that allow students or staff to interact with the content. For student programs, you will also receive a writing prompt that extends learning on the video’s topic. The video may be viewed unlimited times from that date you receive it until the end of the school year.  A link will be shared with you that can be used during in-class instruction, staff professional development session, or embedded in your school’s online platform for sharing.

What do you mean when you say the lessons are “interactive”?

We use a video overlay program called Mindstamp with each of our pre-recorded virtual workshop videos. Each pre-recorded video has a mix of multiple-choice, short-answer, and draw-on-the-screen interactions, which allow for the student to move at their own pace. Virtual lessons may  include an activity piece that asks students to create something with common household items or a follow-up link to other activities or games related to the content of the virtual lesson.  Adult programs include a brief survey to collect feedback on their experience with school recycling and any recycling needs they may have.

How are response data recorded and used to preserve privacy?

Learners are asked to provide the name of their school at the start of the program, and students will be asked to provide their teacher’s name. Individual respondents do not share their name or contact information with the Ecology Center.  Data cannot be traced back to an individual student or staff member.

When a learner answers the video’s interactive questions, Mindstamp records their responses under an anonymous viewer-name. This allows us to track how responses vary without identifying individuals. Responses are aggregated to help us identify whether the lesson is achieving learning goals or to identify areas where we could improve the program to enhance learning. Summary data is shared with our County sponsors, including: 

  • the number of students and schools participating in each lesson
  • the percentage of learners that  scored well on quantitative knowledge questions
  • examples of learner thinking, shared as anonymous quotes
  • needs that have been identified for school recycling system

How do I access and share a lesson with my students?

In order to access the workshop, you will receive an email with a link to the Ecology Center Virtual Lesson that was requested in the online registration form. After clicking the link you will be redirected to the virtual lesson, and you can share the link on your student engagement platform. 

How many lessons can I register for?

You are welcome to register for multiple workshops for both students and staff in order to meet the educational needs of your community.  Our goal is to support education of students, staff, and families.

How do I request a  lesson or register for a webinar?

Follow this link to an online registration form. The form will ask you to provide your name, school, and contact information. You will select the education options you would like for your school, and a member of our education team will follow-up with you.

Are you offering any in-person programs during 2020-2021 school year?

No. The Ecology Center’s in-person programs are suspended for the 2020-2021 school year. 



Virtual Workshops for 2020-2021 School Year

Wee Recycle (PK/K through 3rd) - OCT

Through games, story, and song, students learn about recycling and how to reduce waste. Featuring song and story with ReEco and friends, and a follow-along, hands-on component where students can sort their own waste at home to learn the rules of recycling.

Project Recycle (4th through 6th) - OCT

Students learn about our waste system and how consumer choices impact the recycling market. Featuring  a video of the Materials Recovery Facility and a draw-on-the-screen sorting activity

Researching Sustainable Systems (High School) - FEB

Give students an age-appropriate introduction to published research with a focus on sustainable resource management. Provides practice with skills such as data analysis, graphing, and reasoning, while asking students to think deeply about the relationship between social inequities and environmental and human health. 

Waste Audit Training (5th - Adult) - OCT

Live webinar presentation that provides introduction to waste audit methods and goals. Walks through step-by-step process for facilitating a waste audit with student groups at school. Scheduled dates and times will be offered during 2020-2021 school year.

Teaching Staff Review (Adult - teacher & administrator specific) - OCT

A brief video introduction to your school’s recycling system and best practices for encouraging recycling culture in the classroom. County and school-specific waste statistics will be shared, reporting on previous year(s) recycling success.

Custodial Staff Training (Adult - facilities staff specific) - OCT

A video introduction to the County’s recycling services and school-specific recycling system. Great resource for ensuring that all staff are up to date on recycling system requirements and updates. 

Master Recycling Educator Training (Adult) - FEB

This series of three 2-hour live webinars for adults provides an in-depth review of recycling and community education best-practices. Participants receive a copy of Master Recycler Manual developed by Michigan Recycling Coalition, a set of zero waste activity materials, and have the option to receive continuing education credits. Scheduled dates and times will be offered during 2020-2021 school year.