Students Initiate Recycling Education at School

Summer Camp at Parkside is an extension of the school year, with a heightened focus on field trips, outdoor time, and exploring the city we live in. After participating in March in Parkside’s first-ever debate, where Class 5-2 argued for and against eliminating the use of plastic utensils at Parkside, a group of students in the Summer program honed in on their interest in recycling.

Wanting to learn more about how recycling actually works, the students asked to go on a field trip. With the help of Ms. White, one of Parkside’s Speech Therapists, they found the Sims Municipal Recycling Center in Sunset Park, and signed up for a free tour. During the tour, students explored the plant’s educational center, and got to visit the plant’s main recycling room and see the machinery that sorts the recyclables. In hearing about the machinery, they learned that single-use plastic utensils, although they are technically recyclable, often can’t actually be recycled because they are too small for the machines and fall through the gaps, rendering them useless. This was a strong reinforcement of the outcome of the March debate which supported banning plastic utensils at school!

As part of the tour, the group discussed the different colored bins at home and school, and which materials should be deposited into which bins. They were surprised to learn that many items are commonly sorted incorrectly before they ever make it to the recycling center, and by the time the class had returned to Parkside, the students had started planning to make posters to educate their peers and teachers about what items to place in each bin. One student noted, “No one reads signs. We have to make our own so that people notice them.”

Another encouraged his classmates to take their effort one step further, saying “We could make a video about recycling. Made for kids, by kids!” And they did. As we start the new school year at Parkside, the video below is being circulated around the school in an effort to improve recycling habits school wide. With support and guidance from Ms. White and their teachers, the students wrote detailed scripts, created props, and recorded a very informative educational video.

Ms. White said, “The most amazing part of this whole project was that the students initiated it all. Following on from the debate, they were so motivated to learn more and to share this knowledge to help others. It was really exciting to see their interest in recycling and their motivation to make positive change in their school community. They’ve helped to kick-start more awareness at Parkside, and while many of them have now graduated, they will be taking their enthusiasm to their new schools this fall.”