DetroitIsIt 2

Green Living Science: The Strategy of Teaching with Objects

This Green Non-Profit Teaches Life Sciences Through Discarded Objects

Green Living Science is a non-profit organization that was started in 2011 to teach recycling education in Detroit. We spent a morning with Green Living Science Executive Director, Natalie Jakub, and Education Director Mary Claire Lamm, to learn more about their work.  

Going into their 9th year, they’re “starting to focus a little more on environmental literacy,” Ms. Jakub told us, “what that means is that we work with schools, businesses, and the community to teach waste reduction and the impact that the materials we use to have on the environment.” 

Our time together started with a walk-through Lincoln Street Art Park to the shipping container turned school where they teach classes to primary school students in the summer. One wall of the container is wallpapered in the vintage advertisements—a playful reminder of our society’s rampant consumer culture. 

As Education Director, Ms. Lamb visits classrooms and leads school assembles to spread her message. She also leads workshops in their shipping container classrooms. 

“We work closely with the Detroit Public Schools Office of Science to write our curriculum, and it’s through science teachers that we do a lot of the outreach to students,” she shared.  

Through this collaboration, Green Living Science is able to “embed the importance of conservation of natural resources” into classroom teachings.  

Ms. Lamb cited a favorite example, sharing,


“We recreate the Detroit River and tell the history of the Detroit River and how it’s extremely polluted. And then the students get to engineer and build a tool to clean the River.” 


The front side of the container is lined with windows covered in graffiti, a refreshing contrast to the opposite wall’s sleek images. The folks at Green Living Science considered painting over the tags, but why bother? They’re part of the container’s natural environment.  

Many of the murals on the surrounding grounds have been created by graffiti artists invited to expand on their clandestine work. Green Living Science also considered constructing a gate around the classroom but decided against it. There are already too many gates in the neighborhood.  

Which is the classic Detroit mix of urban and rural. 

In the warmer months, Girl Scouts come here to bird watch and earn badges. The children learn about recycling through crafts and are sent home with a voucher for a recycling container from the City of Detroit.  

“The City of Detroit got curbside recycling in 2015, and that meant that anyone who lives in a single could sign up for the program. Before that, we had a number of pilot areas in the city,” said Lamb.  

Green Living Science, Ms. Jakob explains, “played a huge role in communicating that we had a huge need for curbside recycling in the city, so we really pushed for that. And now we’ve been their education and outreach person for the last few years.”  

Detroit residents living in a single unit home can take a quiz online to receive a voucher, the hope is that the ease of an application free voucher and the enthusiasm to their children will be enough to spark adults into recycling.  

So far, it’s a strategy that seems to be working.


Ms. Jakub shares some simple and often overlooked recycling tips:




We don’t want to waste another precious resource like water, but giving things a quick rinse or soaking them ensures that they will be recycled.




We see a lot of people trying to sort their recycling, but if you put it in a plastic bag it won’t get recycled.




Common household items like batteries and light bulbs may not seem dangerous, but they need to be taken to a hazardous waste facility.



Those interested in receiving a recycling container from the City of Detroit can visit this website or contact Green Living Science directly at 313.871.4000, and they will walk you through the process.