On Thursday 2nd of February 2023, Miss Davidson’s Grade 6 classroom at Columbia Park Elementary underwent an extensive transformation! The location was previously a functional, large and bright classroom. When the grade 6 students arrived for their school day they found the room they once learned in, had overnight been turned into a paper making factory!
Desks became various stations of a production line, machinery and equipment, including blenders, strainers, soaking tubs, pressing cloths and rolling pins, replaced pencils and workbooks. The students magically became workers, the teacher Miss Davidson and environmental educator Jess Booth now the managing directors of Columbia Park’s first paper making factory!
The students have been participating in the Beyond Recycling program since November and most recently we have been exploring the ‘lifecycle’ of the products we use. Beginning with raw materials, all the way through to how products are produced, distributed, consumed and ultimately disposed of. This has been an engaging and surprising process, with many students now questioning alternative options that are more sustainable and able to have another use. It has also promoted some insightful discussions and changes in behavior based around how we consume these products. With one student reflecting on how they “now want to use things like paper and pencils more sparingly”.
There was no time to rest in in the factory, after the morning announcements a quick safety-briefing, introduction to the work site and demonstration of how to operate the machinery, work began!
The first stop on the production line, was the sorting station, where we received and processed the raw materials (recycled paper) breaking it down into smaller pieces and sorting it into different color groups.
Once sorted and broken down the paper was soaked in a blender with some cornstarch and given a whizz! We all loved this process!
The third step in the production line was a fun but quite wet and messy component where the work crews got their hands dirty! Literally! The freshly blended ‘smoothie’ of paper was poured into a purpose built frame and strainer over a tub of water. Hands were the best tool for moving the paper smoothie around to form an even cover over the strainer. This stage of the production saw a careful selection of native and locally harvested plant seeds and dried flower petals added to the paper smoothie.
The paper factory workers transported the drained off ‘paper smoothies’ in frames to the next stage of production. Where the soon to be paper was removed from the frames and pressed between drying cloths and extra moisture was soaked up by sponges. The final stage of processing was to carefully, roll out the newly pressed paper on to a flat dry surface!
Each student… I mean worker… had a shift at each station learning new skills and actively participating in the production line as a strong and efficient team. The final product was of high quality that the workers were very proud of and the manufactures and customers also approve of! The very first ream of paper produced by the Columbia Park Elementary Paper factory set a very high standard of production, fun, creativity and practicality!
The factory was cleaned up and dismantled, with the space transformed back into a classroom by the workers who were ready to return to their previous profession of being fantastic grade 6 students! The paper we produced will be made into Valentines Day cards, some even being reserved for our local seniors home where we are hoping to connect with wise and experienced members of our community!