Working under the slogan “We May Be the Cause of the Problem…But We Can Also Be the Solution,” Deane Porter School third graders launched a recycling project during Earth Week. The Rumson School District is applying for Sustainable Jersey for Schools certification. Third grade teacher Mrs. Schoenfeld, a member of the district’s Green Team, saw the need to make students more aware of recycling, especially plastic water and juice bottles. She and other third grade teachers Mrs. Cox, Ms. Hogan, Mrs. Siclare, and Mrs. Wright noticed that students don’t always recycle, so they asked students, “How long does trash last?” The youngsters discovered that it takes plastic bottles 450 to 1,000 years (depending on the type of plastic) to break down. Even then, the bottles never really decompose; instead, they break down into small particles of plastic. The EPA reports “every bit of plastic ever made still exists.”
When students read that so much unrecycled plastic ends up in the ocean and killing wildlife, the students were determined to celebrate Earth Day in a big way.
On April 18, third grade student Cecilia Lihn announced the launch of Earth Week and the water bottle project. Each classroom and the cafeteria were provided big clear trash bags. Plastic water, juice, and other bottles were collected for the week of Monday, April 18 through Monday, April 25. At the end of the seven days, all bags of bottles were put on display at the lobby of Deane Porter.
The students saw how many bottles could have ended up in the Tinton Falls landfill. Third graders discussed solutions and Ana Centro announced that even better than recycling, reducing is the best thing you can do for the environment. All staff and students were encouraged to bring a reusable water bottle to school each day.
The third graders also walked to the department of public works with the bags of water bottles, where Larry D’Angelo of the Rumson Department of Public Works and a representative from Monmouth County recycling, Steve Newman, educated the third graders about the process and importance of recycling. They discussed the recycling guidelines in Rumson and Monmouth County, where plastic products go when leave your house, and how kids can help. The students also wrote opinion essays and made recycling bulletin boards with clever sayings like “Don’t Be a Litter Critter” and “We Got the Whole World in Our Hands.”
As a result of the third graders’ efforts, the Rumson School District will be examining and adjusting their practices, based on input from the Rumson DPW. The third graders will educate the Deane Porter staff and students on the guidelines for recycling at school.