by Sarah Clauss, SCS eighth grader
To me, the most important part of any initiative is education. That’s just what John Powell, Education Coordinator at Chittenden Solid Waste District(CSWD), meant when he presented to the Leadership for Environment and Development (LEAD) group at Shelburne Community School (SCS) at a Wednesday meeting. LEAD aims to create a productive and positive atmosphere at SCS and this project was next on the agenda. After hearing Mr. Powell present on that Wednesday, I knew that I wanted to be involved. I signed up, along with four other students. I think that it is important to educate people about sustainability so that we practice good environmental methods of managing our waste. That is to say, we need to sort our waste properly – but first we needed to know how.
We began by learning all the “tricks of the trade.” Over a series of lunch meetings, we learned how to lead an activity called Recycling Relay in which students sort clean examples of waste. We learned by doing the activity ourselves. It was not as easy as I thought – there were a lot of tricks and exceptions that I didn’t know. For example, Styrofoam has a recycling sign, called the chasing arrows, and a number six. Recyclable? Think again. Styrofoam, as we learned, is trash. And those cups with the green stripe? The stripe actually means that they are compostable! Every time we did the activity, we got better, until we perfected it. We broke into groups of two or three, depending on whether we were available for each presentation. After Mr. Powell finished his presentation on the rules and tricks of sorting waste properly, we lead the Recycling Relay, picking volunteers or inviting the whole class to participate.
It was magical to see them remember what Mr. Powell had told them and to see how happy they were. It was the children’s faces that showed me the joy that can be associated with doing something that benefits the whole planet. I was reminded that it is our generation, us kids, who will make or break the chance to keep the Earth healthy.
The reason that I had this magical moment was that the presentation was truly interesting. Mr. Powell made it fun by adding astonishing facts, remarkable pictures, and enthusiasm wherever he could. Also, the Recycling Relay helped a lot. It kept kids intrigued and let them practice the skills hands-on.
You may say that it was just one school, just one tiny step where a giant leap is needed. But I think that this effort made a bigger difference than reducing one school’s improperly sorted waste. The children that had Mr. Powell present to their classes will carry that knowledge with them wherever they go. Who knows? There could be a generation of conservationists walking the halls of SCS! I know that this project left me wanting to do more and I know that my fellow involved students feel the same way.