Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Environmental concerns are emphasized at Pemetic School, and by the time students reach eighth grade they’re eager to make a difference. Students began the year discussing what it means to be “green” and what service-learning project they could undertake that would build on previous environmental initiatives at the school. This particular class sought to encourage students and teachers throughout the school to limit waste generation by practicing the 3 R’s: reduce, reuse, recycle.

Students created a survey to assess the recycling knowledge and practices of students and teachers. The survey confirmed that many people were unsure which materials could be recycled locally. Students prepared a presentation and recycling movie for community members at a “Recycling Awareness Night” held at the local library, in collaboration with the Waste Prevention Committee of Southwest Harbor. Students worked with the transfer station owner to update their recycling brochure (created by the previous year’s eighth-grade class). Teams of students developed and presented information on the 3 R’s to each classroom in the school. Each team got feedback from teachers at that grade level to help them select appropriate lessons and activities. Reflection on successes and challenges helped students make necessary adjustments. “We liked teaching the younger students about the importance of the ‘3 R’s,’” one team observed. “The little kids look up to us and if they see us modeling sustainable practices then maybe they will want to do the same.”

Students organized recycling bins in the school and weighed the materials collected each month. Throughout the school year, they tracked the data on a classroom graph. By the end of the school year, more than 750 pounds of materials had been recycled. Students administered another survey following the project and found that all participants better understood recycling, and many were trying to incorporate new practices at school and at home. Results of the students’ recycling efforts were passed along to the next year’s eighth grade class—so the project’s momentum can be sustained.