Caring for Their Community

Students’ recycling program helps make entire county more environmentally friendly

  • Grades: 3–5, 6–8

Some environmental problems seem so complex they leave many people feeling helpless in working toward a solution. However, students in the High School Life Skills Class at Erie II BOCES School in Angola, New York, have learned there are some things that individuals can do to improve our planet.

In fact, the class has taken it upon themselves to create and manage their own recycling program.

It all started with a classroom conversation between teacher Jane Lewis and her students about landfills and how they negatively impact the environment. The students began to notice how much recyclable material was being thrown into the trash at the school. So they decided to personally visit every classroom and office in their school and pick up all the paper and cardboard that could be recycled. That was six years ago, and the program is still going strong.

How It Works

Students fill up bags with the recyclables they find around the school. Then they load the bags up on a flatbed and throw them into a recycling dumpster. The students keep track of how much they recycle with a large graph they display at the school.

Matt Baran, a student in Ms. Lewis' class, said they have expanded the program to include the local county courthouse and office buildings.

The county employees appreciate and support the recycling efforts of the students. County executive Gregory Edwards says, "This is a great example for all of us on how we can make a difference in our county by promoting recycling at our schools, work sites, and homes."

The students stay motivated to keep their recycling program going because they know it has a significant and positive impact on the environment.

For example, from 2006-2007, the group recycled 7 tons of paper and cardboard, and 14,490 cans and bottles! Ms. Lewis says that the recycling program has also been a good learning experience for her students, as it has helped them develop their personal work ethic too.

What I Think

If we don't continue to find ways to clean and preserve our environment, our Earth will suffer.

There's no better time to start participating in the national effort to preserve our planet than on Earth Day, April 22. The now-global holiday was established in the United States in 1970. It is a day to think about our planet and get people interested in protecting their environment by reducing pollution, and conserving water and energy.

I think the true meaning of Earth Day is illustrated by the hard work of the Erie II BOCES students. They exemplify the impact that the efforts of a few people can have on our environment.

Student recycler Derek Cleland says, "We want to see who will help us recycle by putting cans, bottles, and paper in separate bins, and not throw them away."

Will you be one of those people?



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  • Subjects:
    Environmental Conservation and Preservation, Earth Science, Real-World Science

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