Teaching Kids about the Plastics Industry
Toys are a great launchpad into the world of the plastics industry. From kindergarten kids all the way up to high school, once you show them something they recognize and use in their daily lives that is manufactured out of plastic, ideas start to click in their developing minds.
Any lego lover knows how painful it is to step on a Lego brick with your bare foot! Did you know that Lego produced padded slippers to protect bare feet from stray bricks? Lego products are incredibly feature rich when it comes to precision and functionality, but the padded slippers could be one of their greatest innovations.
Speaking of Lego, I started teaching my kids about plastics early and fortunately some of their favorite toys are Lego bricks. We had a great experience building an injection molding machine together out of Legos. It was a detailed set that piqued my son’s curiosity about different components on the machine that allow for its movements.
Toys are a great launchpad into the world of the plastics industry. From kindergarten kids all the way up to high school, once you show them something they recognize and use in their daily lives that is manufactured out of plastic, ideas start to click in their developing minds. As a high school student I worked some summers in a manufacturing plant. It all began to make sense for me when I saw mass produced packaging for products I was using every day.
As kids get older you can of course point to the more important role of plastics in their lives such as life-saving medical devices, electronics, cars etc. Without plastics these products would not be able to be mass produced economically and available at affordable prices.
I used to present at a tech school on a regular basis where I would bring a table’s worth of different parts. I found this approach to be the best way to get the students engaged and asking questions that led to meaningful conversations, rather than just presenting slides. Videos came in very handy to show new and crazy technologies like cube mold or fast cycling molds for the “wow” factor. The following link is a great site for kids to see plastics in action.
In today’s world I find myself having to educate neighbors and friends about plastics when answering the generic question “what do you do?” Recently it has been easier to explain the positives of plastics due to their important contribution in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. There is no way the testing and roll out of vaccines could be produced without plastic products providing the very high volumes that are needed to meet the demand.
We all can agree that the war against pollution and waste is an important one. As responsible adults we need to put plastic in its proper place when it comes to disposing of our waste, but education in this regard also starts at home with teaching kids about the essential plastic items they use each day.