Things are looking mighty green at Circleville Elementary School. That’s green as in environmentally friendly, recycling, less waste, reusing – you get the picture!
Kathy Dowling, a fourth grade teacher at CES, decided to take a look at the Green Star Schools Program run by Orange County.
“I felt we were part of the way there already so why not go further,” she said.
After receiving all of the Green Star Schools information, Dowling formed a Recycle Committee made up of herself, five students – Natalia Jablonski, Kate Megello, Michael Morley, Philip Hanington and Kiera Raymond – and two parents – Jamie Dow and Rachel Gibson. CES did a trash analysis, which meant saving all trash from the day and weighing it.
“We were doing no recycling at all,” said Dowling.
Needless to say, that has changed.
The school was awarded a $700 grant from the Green Star Schools to get them started. They purchased recycle bins for every classroom. Her students went to each classroom to deliver the recycle bins and gave a lesson to the students about what goes in (all non-deposit bottles, juice boxes, paper, cardboard, metal, glass, plastic and empty drink cartons) and what does not (trash, dirty napkins, food and liquids). By the way, the deposit bottles and cans are saved separately and turned in for the nickels – part of the Clink Program started by Andrea Urmston – which are used for fifth grade extras.
The students also learned that facts are powerful. They researched the effect that paper towels have on the environment. They learned how many trees are cut down for paper towels, the cost of producing them and the trash generated by their use. They wrote persuasive letters to the Pine Bush Central School District Board of Education sharing the information and asking for hand dryers in their bathrooms. The board of education agreed with the students’ hypothesis – the installation of hand dryers in CES bathrooms has already begun.
Dowling’s students took their campaign home too. For those families not already recycling, they set up recycle centers in their homes.
Their latest point of education was in the cafeteria. On June 4, Dowling’s fourth-grade students presented their recycling vision for the cafeteria to two separate assemblies that included all CES students and teachers. They explained they were setting up “zero waste” stations in the cafeteria, which means they dump any remaining liquids into a designated container, recycle all glass, plastic, metals and milk cartons in the blue container and put all trash in the red garbage. They will now “tap and stack” their Styrofoam lunch trays, too, reducing the amount of space taken up by the trays. Dowling said they are looking at a better alternative to the Styrofoam trays in the future.
Third-grade teacher Seth Van Gaasbeek and Assistant Principal Joe Prestianni have started a garden involving the students. And plans are in place to start a compost next school year, which will reduce trash even more.
“We have come a long way since we started this,” said Dowling. “The students have spread the word about being green by reducing, reusing and recycling to the students, staff and to their own families. It’s a great start and I can’t wait to expand our program next school year.”