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Seeing is Believing

Volunteer Bin Monitors at CanyonVolunteer Bin Monitors at CanyonSometimes, mind finding students to bin monitor during lunch time is hard. When you do find willing participants, how do you give them the confidence and sense of authority to tell their fellow peers how to sort properly? At Canyon Middle School in Castro Valley, they discovered a simple solution to the problem; give the bin monitors small, laminated cards explaining what goes where.

The cards at Canyon are given out to the bin monitors before their shift, along with a pin to wear, so fellow students know they are the sorting experts. The card lists every common item in a school’s cafeteria under four different sections; compost, recycling, landfill, and bag-a-bag (Castro Valley has started collecting plastic film separately). Since the implementation of these cards, problems have been alleviated for the bin monitors.

Problem: Cities will change what they recycle and compost, confusing students. This happened at Canyon Middle when Castro Valley started collecting plastic film separately.


Solution: The card can easily be changed to represent what the new rules are in that city.

Problem: English Language Learners have been more susceptible to volunteer as bin monitors. If there is a problem or a student asks a clarifying question, the bin monitor may not understand because of the communication barrier.

Solution: The cards help students explain sorting to their peers when they cannot communicate, which has given them confidence to be authoritative while also practicing their English.

Problem: Students may sort differently at home, then challenge what the monitor is saying during lunch time. This has happened at Canyon, making students weary of wanting to be monitors.

Solution: Once the bin monitors started using these cards, it gave them a sense of authority. They could show the questioning student the card, easily explaining what goes where. Seeing is believing.

This practice started when bin monitors approached Lee Ann Chinn, the Language Arts/English Learner Teacher and campus SWAP Coordinator, explaining that they sometimes get confused while they are monitoring. The cards were then implemented last year, and the school has seen better sorting practices on campus. Every material found is shown on the card or the sign on the bin. Cards like these are also used when eighth graders from leadership collect recycling from classrooms twice a week. Their cards explain the hallway and classrooms assigned to them for that day. These cards have helped students sort more efficiently on campus, give assurance to the volunteers on current practices, and allows for any student to become a bin monitor. 

Canyon Middle School