That was the subject of a recent series of presentation to Elmsford HS students. AHHS has implemented the WeFutureCycle recycling program in the fall and is maintaining a 94% diversion rate through recycling and composting. Students are now pretty much on auto pilot when they come up to the recycling station to quickly sort their left over into recycling, composting or trash. Every day, Elmsford HS produces one bulging bag of recyclables from the lunchroom and another one from the kitchen that go to the Westchester Material Recovery Facility in Yonkers .
Learning about the amount of trees felled every day for our daily paper, paper towels or milk cartons literally made them groan. Realizing where aluminum comes from they casually use to wrap their sandwich shocked them, and understanding that plastic in the environment can be a death sentence to all kinds of animals brought some of them actually to tears.
Civilization with its packaging takes a great toll on this planet. Elmsford students are learning every day that being the solution is as easy as changing a few hand movements and becoming conscious about oneself in the greater scheme of things.
Recently, We Future Cycle introduced its recycling program to the Carl Dixson Elementary School in Elmsford. This school houses Elmsford’s youngest, pre-K through 1st grade and it is now bustling with green activities.
Students as young as 4 years old learned that their daily small actions can make a huge difference. They learned about what happens to the things they “throw away” They learned that there is no “away” on this Earth. The content of the garbage can goes somewhere and they were quite shocked to see what a landfill looks like and what an incinerator does to all of our air. All students agreed that we all have to take care of our Earth.
First graders wrote about what they learned and drew a picture about it. Here are some of the heartfelt examples
White Plains school district has been working with WeFutureCycle for 6 years now and its entire school population is well acquainted with the Recycling station and system in their lunchrooms., The pandemic and the resulting changes in food service put the system on hold for a year.
Now, WeFutureCycle is back to bring environmental literacy to students.
White Plains MAS students just learned in class by class presentation about different packaging and why these materials can be sorted into recycling.
Students as young as K and 1 are very literal in their thinking. When shown a juicebox, they will see JUICE and not the juiceBOX.
Teaching these students to look past the content brings about a whole new level of thinking and even though they were all wearing masks, it was so obvious in their eyes how they were making this very important transition.
After the classroom programs we observed the students putting their new knowledge to test in the lunchroom. It was quite amazing to see the difference in sincerity about their sorting task, now that their heart and head is connected to the hands.
Lunch at White Plains Eastview school is a well oil machine. Students come in at three lunch periods, get their lunch with hot and cold lunch options and some grab and go components and sit down at their designated table with clear plexiglass individual dividers between each other. Mask rules are strictly enforced and students are only allowed to take the mask off, when seated at their table.
After lunch, students put on their mask and go to the recycling station to sort their lunch waste away. They are calm, relaxed and well versed in what they need to do.
We Future Cycle is proud to be the White Plains School districts recycling coordinator now for 6 years and while the pandemic with its changed packaging requirements made lunch service more challenging, it is a pleasure to see with what normalcy the students sort their waste.
Eastview’s custodial staff is very helpful and keep the stations neat and organized.
It takes a village to raise a child and Eastview is showing that a school community can raise environmental literate students and they make it look easy!
4 lbs of garbage, that is all that was generated in the Alexander Hamilton High School in Elmsford. One small bag! Down from over 100 lbs in 9 bags. All the remaining material is either compostable or recyclable.
Students watched a WeFutureCycle presentation to learn about the detrimental effects of garbage on our environment and ultimately on life on this planet. They learned that small changes in their daily life can make a huge difference.
Did you know that if one just separates the recyclables from the non recyclables from the compostables, suddenly a 95% of reduction can be had. And it is not just the benefit of reduction of garbage, but it is also the capturing of the resources. The food waste will be composted into nutrient rich soil and the recyclable packaging material will generate resources for the county.
We interviewed some of the students after learning about the program and sorting their lunch for the first time . All of them said that they were surprised to see how little effort it takes to make a difference, and how just a tiny bit of personal commitment can change the world.
Imagine 30 first graders and one bin of worms? Well, We Future Cycle has been hired to bring sustainability programs to the district. In addition to the hands on sorting in the lunchroom, we go into the classrooms to teach students about other environmental aspects. One of my personal favorite is going into a first grade class with a worm bin.
Students learn the importance of all life, not matter how little, no matter how weird. Did you know that worms breathe through their skin? And they are hermaphrodites? And they don’t lay eggs, nor live babies, but cocoons containing two to three live worms.
Students learned about muscle functions and it is cutest to see them feel their own biceps flexing to understand the interaction of muscles to achieve movement.
Getting up close and dirty with a handful of worms allowed them to observe the muscle movements, check out size differences and stare intently at the translucent tail section of the worm to get a glimpse of the internal castings. (for the intrepid reader…castings are worm poop)
Graham’s first graders now know that our world would not be the same without worms.
“How does bread interact with water?” that was the question Mamaroneck Avenue School second graders had to answer in a slightly messy, hands-on science experiment. Followed up by “How does plastic interact with water?”.
Learning about organic and inorganic materials and how these interact in the environment with water and wind was the basis for We Future Cycle’s presentation to second graders.
Students learned about the problems related to littering. They learned that plastic does not break down in the environment and lasts forever and effects wild life as it enters the food chain.
Watching a video about how the street litter makes it through our rain water sewer systems into the ocean and just how big the plastic problem is was eye opening to them. Footage of divers swimming through a soup of floating garbage made them collectively groan. And seeing animals dying from ingesting plastic made this problem personal to them.
Each class started a lively discussion on how every student can be the solution to the problem. Each student had brilliant ideas and wrote about them in their daily workbook.
We Future Cycle’s motto is “Creating a generation of kids that care” and these MAS students are an inspiration to all.
Nothing is more fun than going into a classroom with a worm bin and teaching first graders about how every living being has a really important job to do.
The initial reactions of the little ones is a long drawn out “uuuhhhhh”, when I show them pictures of my worms and tell them how much I love them. They usually look at me with disbelief. And then they learn about all the fabulous things that only worms can do for us, and without that, our world would truly be in dire straits.
Students learned how worms breathe and upon learning that it is through their skin, they all rubbed their arm in disbelief. They learned about the function of muscles and it was very cute to watch them flex their biceps repeatedly, imitating contraction.
They learned about how much worms can eat, how they are the cleaning crew of our world. As they are translucent, one can actually observe the castings ( worm speak for “bathroom business number 2”) pass through their body and students learned how they are connected to healthy soils and plant life. I was blown away that all students knew that plants gave us oxygen (yes they used that word!) and food.
They learned how worms reproduced and all were very busy looking for cocoons and to identify what age a worm might have based on its size. BTW, just in case the intrepid reader wants to know. Worms have both male and female organs, but two worms still need to mate, and then both can have about 5 cocoons per week. Each cocoon contains 2-3 itsy bitsy live worms, that will stay for about 45 days in the cocoon until its time to hatch. It takes 6-10 weeks to grow to adulthood and they have a lifespan of 3-5 years (quite astonishingly long)
The lesson was capped with a wet paper towel in front of the kids, with a handful of worms on it to get up close and personal with them. Students learned that every living being has an important job to do and deserve our respect.
We Future Cycle just implemented its recycling program in Graham Elementary School. Students learned about what happens to garbage and where it goes. They saw pictures of landfills and garbage filled lakes and coastal waters. They also learned about how personal choices in what we buy and what we consume make a difference, every single day.
I usually share with students my personal dislike for single serve juice pouches. The sandwiched material of plastic, aluminum foil and plastic is non-recyclable and such a terrible waste of infinitely valuable aluminum foil.
Most people do not think about the environmental cost of the materials they touch every day.
What does it take to make a water bottle, what does it take to make aluminum foil?
We are usually too busy to just get our days organized and it is so convenient to grab something single serve wrapped. And our language of casually saying “I am just going to throw this away”, as if there was a magic poof that made garbage disappear.
Mount Vernon students are learning that there is no away, when it comes to garbage. It goes either to a landfill or to the incinerator, neither is a good place for our environment, and both have lasting damaging effect to all communities around them.
On day two, after learning about how their actions count and make a difference, I was approached by a group of 4th graders proudly displaying their new reusable water bottles, and saying that -from now- they will make a difference every day !
It was very heart warming. Changing the heart of children is what it takes to make generational change.