Clay Wright, 9, and Crystal Watson, 10, sit on the floor of their third-grade classroom and pick through trash, tearing it into pieces.
“We know how much trash is in the school,” said Crystal. “It’s fun. We are helping our community be better.”
While their classmates at Sabal Palm Elementary School might not think twice about recycling everything from pencils and paper to the aluminum foil they pack their lunches in, the students in Laura Boyd’s third-grade class are.
The class has been working on a five-week-long unit about recycling and conservation.
“I wanted the students to truly be engaged and motivated to make a difference in our school community,” said Boyd.
The biggest part of the unit came from collecting trash at the school and at home. Students separated the trash they collected into recyclable categories like paper, plastic and aluminum.
“It was fun,” said Yoil Arreguin, 9. “We are learning about recycling and we are showing how much trash we found.”
The students then charted on bar graphs how many pieces of paper, aluminum and plastic they found. All of those items, which other people had thrown away, could have been recycled.
“Bar graphs are on the FCAT (Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test),” said Boyd. “I wanted to combine the science and math concepts together while giving them some additional FCAT help.”
In addition to the trash collecting project, the class buried items like bread, a dog food can, a slice of bread and a Styrofoam cup 8 inches blow ground. After four weeks, the class dug the items up to see how much they decayed.
“Most of the students thought all of the items would be gone (after four weeks),” Boyd said. “We began digging and found the banana peel had turned black and was fragile and the bread had almost vanished. The remainder of the items had not changed.”
Students also went home and left notes around the house, reminding family members to conserve energy. Parents told Boyd at parent-teacher conferences they found notes in their shower, on the screen of the television and on a light in the bathroom.
Students had their own ideas about conserving items they use every day.
“People shouldn’t throw away old math books. They should give them to charity, like the Salvation Army, so someone else can use them,” said Briar Johanning, 10.
The students’ work on the recycling project is displayed in the Sabal Palm cafeteria.
“You can see we found the most trash on the bus loop,” said Johanning. “We found trash in the fence. We found socks in the fence. We need to stop littering and do more recycling.”
The students also drew posters to put around school and have filmed a commercial about recycling for the morning announcements.
“We need to recycle so the landfills don’t get so big,” said 9-year-old Taylor Gray. “That way, we have more room to build, the world won’t look trashy and there will be enough fresh water for everyone.”
Boyd said her students see the value of working together as a community to change behaviors.
“We are trying to promote the need to keep the environment cleaner,” she said.