CHAMPAIGN – The garbage monster visited the Orpheum Children's Science Museum on Monday.
He left bits of himself all over the place, strewn pieces of paper and debris on the floor, as children searched the museum finding clues to his whereabouts. Who is this elusive trash-thrower?
He's a metaphor.
The garbage monster showed children what happens when there's too much trash in the world. "Defeat the garbage monster by recycling," said Sheri Krueger, education coordinator at the museum.
For a group of second- and third-graders, garbage and what to do with it are topics of high importance. That's why this week, through the museum's "Recycle, Rethink" summer camp, they're learning the basics on how to keep garbage from becoming waste.
"You can make stuff out of garbage," said Jacob Lo, 8, of Champaign, "so the world doesn't get filled with garbage – then there will be no places for people to live."
On Tuesday morning, campers focused on paper, tearing old newspapers into shreds and mushing them up with water, then blending them into a mixture that will be flattened and dried out to become new pieces of paper. "It's really easy to recycle paper," Krueger said. "It's really easy to make recycled paper."
Tyler Courson, 8, of Mahomet, gets into the activity. "This is fun. I like to tear," he said as he ripped up pages. He also likes learning about new ways to recycle. "It's good for the environment, and there won't be as many landfills."
Other activities included making plastic from milk and demonstrating composting with banana peels.
This is the first time the camp has been offered at the Orpheum and coincides with the full-time placement of Carol Knepp – who formerly worked for the state on "greening" schools – as the museum's executive director in May. Other summer programs include a solar energy camp and an invention camp.
"The children are very enthusiastic about it," Knepp said of the recycling program. "They generally think they know a little about it. ... They'll leave the camp knowing a whole lot more."
Krueger would like for the children to leave camp with ideas on how to reduce waste and a passion to pass those lessons on. "I hope they become more conscious of the places they're making," she said. "And I hope they encourage their parents and their schools."
Nicole Hoetker, 7, of Champaign, already has a lesson ready for her family and friends. "They should put things in the recycling bin, like newspapers," she said. "I like recycling things, and I love protecting the environment and animals."