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Sandy Hook School Conservation And Recycling Unit Concludes

Published: April 30, 2010 at 12:00 am

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Sandy Hook School Conservation And Recycling Unit Concludes

By Eliza Hallabeck

A packet arrived at The Bee’s office last week containing 19 letters from third grade students at Sandy Hook Elementary School concerned about recycling.

Kate wanted residents to know third graders were throwing out 185 pounds of garbage from lunch each week, but, after learning to reduce their waste, threw out only 65 pounds in one week.


“It’s only been three weeks since we changed the amount of garbage we collected,” Kate wrote. “If more than 100 kids can create less garbage in three weeks, it would be amazing if everyone could do that. Our school did a lot of recycling and didn’t waste food. At home, people can make a difference by using leftover boxes.”


John wrote to the editor asking residents to think about how much waste Newtown creates in one week. All students signed the letters with their first names only.


“I think you should write in the newspaper to reduce, reuse, and recycle,” John wrote. “We can reduce so many pounds of garbage. Some people I know brought home Styrofoam lunch trays, and we reused them.”


Keeley wrote the third graders decided to make a difference after learning how much garbage they alone produce at the school.


“I have learned that you should not use paper napkins, plastic spoons, forks or knives,” wrote Keeley. “Use metal utensils and cloth napkins. The more garbage we throw away, the more garbage goes into landfills.”


A cover letter, signed by all third grade teachers at the school, explained the Letters to the Editor were written as part of the culmination of a Conservation and Recycling Unit at the school. According to the letter, students learned multiple ways they can make a difference, and creating less waste in the cafeteria was a major part of the unit. Students also learned other aspects of reducing waste, recycling, and reusing materials in the unit.


Matthew wrote the third grade students also worked on other projects during the Conservation and Recycling Unit. He built a robot made out of recyclable materials, created a PowerPoint presentation to share with his fellow students, and he studied Polystyrene, “a bad substance in lunch trays,” using a microscope.


All third grade students in the school wrote letters to be sent out to the community. Those letters were sent to school principals, Superintendent of Schools Janet Robinson, and Dan Shields, RD, food service director for Chartwells in Newtown. One student also wrote to President Barack Obama, according to third grade teacher Amy Taylor.


This was the first year the unit took on the recycling program, according to Ms Taylor and fellow third grade teacher Natalie Hammond. Both teachers said the program evolved after school Principal Donna Pagé spoke to teachers about 21st Century skills. Part of teaching 21st Century Schools, Ms Hammond said, is teaching community involvement.


“We all got together,” said Ms Taylor, “and thought about what we wanted to do, and what would be the best way to go about it.”


Once the idea to hold two garbage “audits” at the school came together, it took a team effort, according to both teachers, to make the program happen. Ms Hammond and Ms Taylor said Hawley School, where a composting program is in place, parent Gina Wolfman was a big help. Sandy Hook School head custodian Kevin Anzellotti also helped oversee the students weighing garbage bags produced from school lunches.


“In the [United States] we produce 71.6 million tons of paper waste each year!” wrote Tess. “Wow! That is more than five to six dinosaurs could weigh!”


Ms Hammond said students had an intense response from the unit this year.


“It confirmed for me that when students are actually engaged in something, they take it to heart and really run with it,” said Ms Hammond.


Ms Taylor agreed, and both said they were happy with the success the unit had at the school this year.


“And the kids feel they have truly made a difference,” said Ms Taylor, “because they are hearing back from their letters.”


Next year a composting project may also be added, similar to Hawley’s program, but both Ms Hammond and Ms Taylor said parent volunteers would be needed.


“I learned a gigantic amount of information through my waste-free lunch experiments,” wrote Hannah. “I learned so many neat words and things that can help me make a change in the world.”


The hands-on engagement of the project created real learners, said Ms Hammond.


“If third graders keep bringing in waste-free lunches, we can make a difference,” wrote Ashley. “But, imagine if the world did that? That would save the Earth for sure.”


Lindsay was also concerned with saving the Earth, and asked for everyone to join the third graders in eating waste-free lunches.


“Here are some suggestions to be green,” Grace wrote. “One, bring a waste-free lunch to work. Two, start a compost pile at work or home. Three, have recycling bins at work, and remember to be green!”


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