We went on Saturday. It was Lilah’s first day in Big Girl shoes, and she toddled around showing off her new kicks. The boys merrily tore through the science area, blowing on model windmills and learning how batteries function.
“There’s a program on recycling starting on the green carpet at 11:00,” the only employee of the place told us. The start time, however, was rather casual, as there was only one other family in the museum. At about 11, the guest lecturer sort of looked at our kids and asked, “So, are you ready to get started?”
Now, our boys love educational programming. Come to think of it, they love pretty much any kind of programming. They relish the chance to sit – crisscross, applesauce – on any bit of rug they can find and completely monopolize the audience-participation portion of a concert, lecture, or show. Tell them there is a grown-up about to start a puppet show or a lecture on calculus; it doesn’t matter – they’ll be there, sitting right up front.
The guy began the program with a discussion of the importance of recycling. “What happens to your trash?” he asked.
That one was a softball. “They come in a trash truck and take it away to the garbage dump,” Zachary replied.
“OK, you’re skipping a few steps. That’s fine. But where does it go after the garbage dump?”
Our boys, plus the other three-year-old girl, sat there, dumbfounded. What does happen to all that trash? This gave our friend, Recycling Dude, a chance to explain chipper topics like landfills and limited landmass. Zachary was fascinated. Benjamin and the other three-year-old nodded politely while picking their noses.
The program went on for a few more minutes. Then Recycling Dude took out a bin of waste. It was time for the hands-on portion of the program, when the kids would get to separate out recyclables from rubbish. As he started going through the various rules for identifying recyclables, Zachary’s eyes narrowed. You could almost picture him with a notebook and pen, jotting down bullet points so he could study for finals.
“Do you know what this is?” Recycling Dude started out.
“It’s for milk!” Benjamin shouted.
“That’s right,” the guy replied. “Do you know what it’s made of?”
Benjamin continued, not bothering to listen to the actual question. “Milk is good for your bones.”
“That’s true, too. Do you know what material it is made of?” Recycling Dude asked, steering us back on track.
“It’s plastic,” Zachary corrected.
“That’s right. And if we look on the bottom for the little triangle, we can see what number is inside. If it’s a one or a two, it’s recyclable.” He led them in searching for the number, exclaiming with surprise when they discovered that, indeed, a plastic milk jug is recyclable.
“Now, this you probably recognize.” All three children looked at him, once again dumbfounded. “It’s a Pringles container.” No response. None of the children had the faintest of clues what a Pringle was. “Well, you know who these three are, right?” He held a soup can up to the three-year-old girl. She stared at him, no clue whatsoever who the fuck those three ladies were on the can.
“The Diseney princesses!” Zachary replied, certain he would be getting an A for class participation. The three-year-old girl got up to check out the Van Gogh room.
“That’s right. And the can is made of aluminum, so it is always recyclable. Now, let’s see, you probably know what this is.” He held up a plastic Nestle Quick container. “You probably have this in your house.”
“It’s chocolate milk!” Zach replied.
“I don’t have chocolate milk,” Benjamin responded, gravely. “It has sugar in it.”
“That’s true,” Recycling Dude replied, at this point wondering whether he might ask for overtime. “I think maybe I spoil my kids.”
Recycling Dude pressed on, pointing out bottles for toxic cleaning supplies and facial wash. The other three-year-old returned. As the pile dwindled, I kept my eye on one glass bottle in particular. Although my kids had no clue what processed foods had come in about half the containers, I suspected they would recognize that one. And I was pretty sure I knew what they’d say when Recycling Dude got to it.
“And how about this?” he asked, picking up the bottle. “I’ll bet you have this in your houses.” It was like he wanted to give Zachary the perfect set-up.
“It’s for olive oil,” Zachary replied. “But we don’t have that in our house. My sister is allergic to it.”
Recycling Dude sort of nodded, then explained that glass is always recyclable. He picked up a glass jar. “Do you know what this is?”
“It’s a pickle jar!” Zach was delighted. Benjamin, not to be outdone by his brother, called out something the guy couldn’t quite understand.
“Pickles make me fart,” Benjamin repeated, articulating more clearly this time.
I think we’ll be keeping the kids in the house until springtime.