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What I Learned About the Environment From Elementary School Students

{The Greening Of Westford} Speaking with Kindergartners about Recycling
Speaking with Kindergartners
Nestled in a neighborhood in the Burncoat section of Worcester, MA sits a special  Elementary school – Thorndyke Road School.  It looks like an old mansion from the outside with its large entrance and beautiful columns.  What was going on inside, was even more amazing.
 
Being that Earth Day was last week,  this Kindergarten through 6th grade school had a very special week planned!  They did some spring cleaning and learned how to clean with vinegar, 4th, 5thand 6th grade students participated in an Environmentally themed Science Fair, and  they asked me to be a guest speaker for the day.  I was thrilled!
 
TRS had only recently started recycling at their school this year.  Through the efforts of one teacher, Stephanie Syre-Hager, and almost 50 5th and 6thgrade students they have made huge strides in “greening” their school.    They are focused on recycling right now, but I have no doubts they will be doing much more very soon.  The 5th and 6thgrade students volunteer to become Recycling Leaders and give up one lunch and recess per week to work on recycling in their school!   They broke into groups to work on different areas – there were Recycling Educators, Recycling Cheerleaders, Recycling Artists, Recycling Performers, Recycling Managers and the Celebration Planners.
 
Stephanie explains
 
Since the start of school, recycling leaders have been busy learning about recycling and coming up with ways to share information with the whole school.  The artists made posters, and they hung signs by the recycling bins to remind everyone which items should be recycled.  They also decorated an educational bulletin board.  Other groups have been working diligently too. The recycling educators are working on presenting ideas to teach younger children about recycling.  The cheerleaders presented a cheer on America Recycles Day, and the performers wrote and performed a play for several grade levels.  Our recycling managers have taken on the responsibility of distributing and emptying the bins on a weekly basis under the direction of a parent volunteer. We also had a recycled art contest around Thanksgiving. Finally, the Celebration Planners came up with ways to celebrate America Recycles Day on November 15th.  We had over 100 students take the Green Team Pledge with their families.
 
I had the pleasure of speaking with each of the Kindergarten through 6th grade classes throughout the day.  They were amazing!  For only starting to recycle this year, they knew a tremendous amount about the environment.  We talked about why we recycle, what we can recycle and of course I showed them my TerraCycle bags.  Kids (and adults)  just love these!  They were all so fascinated by the fact that trash could be turned into such cool tote bags, lunch bags and more.
 
With each grade level I was amazed at what they knew.  As I was discussing why we want to recycle, I asked how paper was made, what it was made from, of course they all knew – Trees.  I went on to explain that recycling saves trees – for every ton of paper recycled 17 trees are spared.  TRS will probably save about 20 trees this year through recycling, which doesn’t sound like much, but we did some quick math and realized that if every Massachusetts Public school recycled like TRS, we could save over 65,000 trees per year!  That made an impression, on me too!
 
Then I went on to ask why we want to save trees – I mentioned that trees take a long time to grow and that if we cut them all down for paper we might not have any left at some point and that would be ugly!  One third grade boy also told me that, “trees help us live by giving us oxygen”. Right on!!  A  4th grade girl explained that trees are homes to small animals and where would they go if all the trees were gone?!  Another boy said “We wouldn’t be able to build more homes” since they are also made of wood.  I was speechless!   Each classroom I entered surprised me more and more.  Happily!  They get it!  I told each classroom that they could help their parents and grandparents.  They thought it was funny that they could teach their parents.  But it’s so true!  We didn’t learn this in school like they are now.  
 
Speaking with the Recycling Leaders

 

Toward the end of the day, I had the pleasure of meeting and speaking with the Recycling Leaders.  The enthusiasm, knowledge and dedication blew me away.  We talked about what steps they could take next – maybe introduce recycling in the cafeteria or start their own TerraCycle program.  I wasn’t even going to mention composting because I thought it might be too much, well a 5th grade girl asked what they’d have to do to compost the food scraps from the cafeteria!
 
The day ended with parents and students back at school looking at the Science Fair projects, announcing the winners and honoring the Recycling Leaders.   Many students I had spoken to during the day smiled, waved and said “Hi Mrs. Greene!” I am tearing up just thinking about it.  So cute!   I wish I could have written down all of their names because I have the feeling that I will be hearing their names in the future, doing great things.
 
The intent of having me there was to show them that other people are doing what they are and more.  To help encourage and inspire them to keep going.    Well, they are the ones that inspired me.  I truly left there more inspired and encouraged to go further myself.  
 
Thank you TRS! 
 

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Bill McKibben To Speak In Weston, MA

Bill McKibben (Photo Credit Nancie Battaglia)
“Probably the country’s most important environmentalist”  
That is how the Boston Globe described Bill McKibben.  On March 25, The Congregational Church of Weston is bringing Bill McKibben to Weston High School. 

The author, educator and environmentalist has written several books on climate change.  His first book in 1989, The End Of Nature, is said to be the first book written for the general population on climate change. In addition to books, Bill is a frequent contributor to several magazines.  Among them, The New York Times, Harper’s, Rolling Stone and Grist Magazine.

Bill is an activist as well.  He is a founder of the grassroots organization 350.org which has coordinated 15,000 rallies in 189 countries since 2009.  350.org is named for the safe level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere (350 parts per million). Currently, the earth is at 393.65 parts per million.  

Currently, he resides with his wife and daughter in Vermont.  However, Bill grew up not far from here in Lexington, MA.

Come here him speak.  I haven’t had the pleasure of hearing him speak yet, but a friend of mine has said he is very motivating.
March 25, 3pm 
Weston High School 
 444 Wellesley St, Weston, MA

Admission is FREE

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