These days, iPhones, iPads, skinny jeans, skateboards and other fashionable items are the norm for the younger generation. Amid their commodity interests, 30 student council and gifted resource students at Barsanti Elementary have found a common ground with teachers to help control waste in their school.
Last year, the groups participated in “America Recycles Day” which prompted fifth-grade teacher Sylvia Crawford to get an approval from the principal, allowing the interested students to recycle paper, cardboard and plastic, during authorized times on Thursdays.
The program began in September. So far, the students, staff and principal are pleased with the program and thinks it’s a great way to teach children about the importance of recycling.
“I think it is wonderful teaching children to take care of the earth. [It] is a great project our students are doing,” Principal Jennifer Halley said.
For Crawford, getting the program started was necessary, but became overwhelming. Brooke Cord, a parent sponsor, stepped in to volunteer once a week. Cord admits that helping has personally taught her more about recycling and thinks all on-post residents should become more concerned about properly disposing waste.
“I just pretty much monitor the kids. I let them do most of the work. I’ve learned a few things [about recycling] and I think we have to be proactive even if it’s just recycling at home,” Cord said.
From the time the program started, until now, Cord said that they have accumulated enough paper that can fill two large recycling bins.
Crawford credits Sharon Sanford, pollution prevention specialist, an advocate for helping the fifth graders become proactive, by bringing recycling bags, T-shirts and showing them the proper way to recycle. Sanford taught the children recycling codes used to recycle bottles appropriately.
“Since the program, recycling has become second nature to students and they choose the recycling bins over the trash can,” Crawford said.
Sanford said that education, beginning at the elementary school level for recycling, provides knowledge for students to carry on through life and that they are able to take care of the earth and eliminate landfill waste at a young age.
“[Recycling] can and will improve the students’ quality of life in the years to come,” Sanford said.
The school’s collaborative efforts has given hope for a chance to enter the Siemans “we can change the world challenge,” a national challenge that motivates children to look at how they can institute change in the world from school. Crawford believes the recycling plan has made a positive change in the students and the school.
“We have a good program. More children and teachers have become aware…of recycling. I’ve really noticed a change in the kids. They just seemed less concerned with little material [like crayons] and I do feel that they are better,” Crawford said. “It [is] really an education thing for them, to know how to do it.”
Both Sanford and Crawford, are hoping other schools will become more aware of the importance of children learning to recycle and become encouraged to start a recycling program.
“We want to extend the success we’re having to the other schools and keep that awareness up. I think that’s the biggest lesson, caring for what we already have without having this throw-away society,” Crawford said.
The upcoming projects for the recycling program includes recycling batteries, planning a field trip in the spring to clean-up debris and trash in the river and also create a newsletter to help parents become more aware of the students’ progress.
The recycling lessons are helping the children consider their wasteful ways.
“They’re much more conscience of wasting paper and they understand that you [don’t have to] write one little thing on a big sheet of paper,” Crawford said. “We need to conserve.”
Crawford said the fifth graders have become more responsible, their habits have changed and they are proud of their accomplishments.
Kaiya Brinkerhoff, a fifth grader, is excited about learning recycling and encourages everyone to compose their waste properly to help the environment.
“I didn’t know that corn can be made into pens,” Brinkerhoff said. “[The earth] is the only thing we have. We can’t live on any other planet. The earth is the only planet that supports our needs.”