That is something that Saboor Tahir learned in a very pleasant way. Today, Trinity’s Assistant Principal presented the gleaming 5th grader with his certificate and an envelope holding a nice cash prize, all in front of his applauding classmates.
This 5th grade class was part of the recent “The Science of Composting” workshop given by We Future Cycle. Students touched, felt and smelt compost and learned about what goes on inside the compost pile. Connecting global warming, healthy soils and a solution to a waste management problem was the objective of this workshop and students were tasked to write about what they learned.
Saboor Tahir rose up to the task and handed in an essay that very clearly reflected his understanding of the topic and that he did additional research to connect these important dots.
Meet Ben and Nate. These engaged 6th graders made an appointment with the New Rochelle Albert Leonard Middle School Principal John Barnes to discuss the need for additional changes in the lunchroom. Both students fully support the We Future Cycle recycling program but want to see it go even further.
Armed with plastic wrapped apples, plastic wrapped cookies, Styrofoam FroYo cups and single serve ketchup pouches they made their case. Reading from their research notes they presented Mr Barnes with facts about plastic in the environment as well as the now documented health risks associated with consuming food that touched the polystyrene.
Mr Barnes invited the Executive Director Anna Giordano to the meeting to give the students the opportunity to hear what is already in the works in regards to these materials. Ms Giordano was delighted to meet these engaged students and shared that exactly these materials are on her list to be replaced with more environmental solutions.
Nate and Ben were invited to share their concerns in writing with the administration and they are now working on a letter to formally request the removal and replacement of these packaging items.
Mr Barnes was exceedingly proud of his students and rightly so!.
Walking into a classroom full of excited 6 year olds, toting your worm composting bin is an adventure in itself. The “uuuuh”, “aaahhhha” and “YIKES” were ear splitting, most students also expressed how gross they thought worms were. However, it didn’t take long for them to understand the important role that worms play in our environment.
Students learned how worms eat and the explanation of what comes back out was drawing big laughter . They giggled as they tried the new words out. Eisenia Fetida, the latin name of the red wriggle worm, is now a household name among these first graders. Worms and their “castings” were investigate under the magnifying glass and all students touched and smelled the worm castings to make a scientific analysis.
“It feels real smooshy and doesn’t stink at all, just smells like dirt”
“I thought it would be gross to touch it, but it wasn’t, not at all”
“The baby worms were so cute, I wanted to take them home”
We Future Cycle is proud to provide sustainability education to the New Rochelle School District and class by class, students are learning how things work together and how they can make a difference. Fostering understanding for the cycle of life and the importance of all beings in this cycle in young children will change communities.
Vincent’s mom already shared with the teacher how the information came home and how Vincent now considers worms and other critters his friends.
New Rochelle School District has committed funds to Sustainability Education knowing that it is a capital improvement project that will shape and educate the whole child. Truly fantastic.
What happens to the food waste that New Rochelle students are sorting out in the lunchroom to be composted? How does composting work and is it really worth the effort? Those were questions that New Rochelle Trinity 5th graders are learning the answers to.
We Future Cycle, a not-for- profit organisation specialized in large scale sustainability programs has been working with Trinity Elementary school and its 1000+ students for years now. Source separation and words like commingled and compost are second nature to these kids.
In classroom presentations, students learned what happens to food that is put into a landfill, they learned about harmful Methane as potent green house gas and large contributor to global warming and they learned about the chemical processes that take place inside a compost pile. Giggles and audible gasps were heard when they learned that each one of them is a decomposer as the banana that might go into their mouth does not come out quite like a banana again.
The best part was digging in the dirt as they got to examine up close and personal four different soil samples. Inspecting them while looking for color, texture, water retention capabilities and organic matter content gave them a deep understanding of the connection between healthy soils and its ability to grow food.
Each worm they found was greeted with cheers and great enthusiasm.
Trinity’s 5th graders have learned now that treating food waste as garbage is wasting a valuable resource. Making compost from food waste and leaves is making black gold, and it saves a lot of money.
New Rochelle School District is now running the We Future Cycle Recycling Program in all of its elementary schools and one of its middle schools, close to 7000 students are sorting their waste every day, instead of just dumping it all into the garbage.
Every single school has reduced its waste by 95 to 98%, from 20 bags down to one. From 350 lbs down to 7.5 lbs. Part of the program is the sorting out of the untouched food. The food the students take but end up not consuming. And there is LOTS of it.
The We Future Cycle Recycling Program is working this problem from both ends. One side is to reduce through education the amount the students take without intention to consume it, and the other side is to sort it into a donation basket rather then dumping it.
Isaac Young MS students just started the program and through sorting, rescued 2 crates of untouched food every day. This food is going to HOPE Kitchens, a non-for-profit soup kitchen that feeds needy New Rochelle community members. A win-win situation.
As a sustainability consultants to the largest school districts in Westchester County, We Future Cycle presenters get to talk to many students, personally my favorite part of the job.
I usually bring a full bag of all kinds of packaging material which I theatrically empty onto a table in front of the students and then neatly arrange the empty bottles, empty cups, empty wrappers, empty boxes, empty bags, empty juice pouches. I remain quiet while listening to the students wondering aloud what I was doing with all that garbage. Some positively snare at it.
I then ask the students what I brought them, holding up a random empty packaging item. A kindergarten student would tell me exactly what I held in my hand…a bottle, ….a can…. a fork. By 2nd grade latest, I get disgusted shout outs of “garbage!”, or “trash”…..with the occasional “recycling” thrown in.
I start by telling them that I did not bring them trash. I pause. They are quiet and bewildered. Then I tell them that I did not bring them recycling. Again I pause. By now, the students are clearly confused, but their interest is very much peaked, there is no sound to be heard, they are anxiously awaiting my answer. And then I tell them, that I brought them material and they decide every time they discard something if it becomes recycling or trash, just by choosing the right bin. Walking them through the example of building with lego brings the concept “many small pieces make something usable, which can be broken down again into small pieces” very much home to them. They got that. When I asked them if they would ever consider throwing their lego in the garbage, they emphatically call out “no” and when I ask them if they ever considered throwing their left over sandwich into the lego box, they paused for a split second and also called out “no”, but in that split second, they got it. They got that everything has its place and mixing it is no good.
Teaching them from here on was a breeze. At the end, when I asked them if they are going to make good choices now as to where they put their material, I got an enthusiastic positive response. New Rochelle Columbus students are pledging to make every time they have to discard something the right choice! Way to go, Columbus!
Check out how these Trinity Elementary Students are carefully pasting their waste free leaf to the tree.
Liam Sparano (K, Ms Hawkins class) has received already 6 leaves ” I eat healthy snacks to get energy to grow big and strong like Superman”.
Trinity Elementary School students are proudly pasting paper leaves with their names to the Waste Free Tree that is taking up most of the wall in the front lobby. This Waste Free Tree symbolizes the change Trinity students are making in terms of snack packaging. Only students whose mid morning snack is completely waste free will earn a leaf and the opportunity to paste it to the tree. Students that are waste free and also super healthy will be able to earn a bonus leaf. And ….. this tree is sprouting leaves like crazy!
Jayden Henry has received 5 leaves. Jayden said, “I tell my Mommy I need a healthy snack every day”
Valeria Gutierrez has 4 leaves- She said, “I remind my Daddy in the morning to not use plastic baggies and I need fruit or rice cakes for snack”
We Future Cycle, a non profit organization specialized in bringing large scale sustainability programs to schools was hired to turn New Rochelle on a path toward sustainability. 4 presenters did class by class presentations to over 1000 students, helping them make the connection that snacks that are healthy for their body are often also healthy for the Earth as they come naturally unpackaged.
Even kindergarten students, when presented with a picture of the packaging waste of classroom snack knew immediately that most of that food belonged into the category of junk food. When asked if that food was healthy for their body, they all enthusiastically replied “no”. They listed the commonly known reasons on why not to eat junk food, even the littlest ones knew the connection to obesity, diabetes and dental decay, amazing.
Tanya Kadaru has received 6 leaves “My parents give me fruits and vegetables for snacks. They want me to stay healthy and get a lot of sleep so I can learn”.
Teachers are reporting a decrease in plastic baggies and more reusable containers. More students are bringing in water in thermoses to drink and skipping the juice boxes.
Trinity Elementary School is a shining example of how we can create a generation of kids that care through environmental education, and how it changes communities as well.
New Rochelle Trinity Elementary School Assistant Principal Inas Morsi Hogans has been for years a stout supporter of the We Future Cycle recycling program and knows that it takes regular refreshers for students to understand why they are sorting their lunch waste in the cafeteria.
Only if our head knows the why, the hands will do the what automatically.
Ms Morsi Hogans invited We Future Cycle to do student presentations in each classroom to refresh the older grades on how the program works, and of course to teach the younger grades. We Future Cycle staff members went from class room to classroom teaching the students that an empty bottle or peanut butter jar is not trash, but rather material to make something new out of. The students were fascinated to learn where “away” was, when one talks about throwing something away.
In Westchester, “away” is the incinerator up the Hudson in Peekskill. A large Waste-to-Energy facility that burns Westchester’s 2500 daily tons of garbage into our air.
A regular lunch trash bag is a 55 gal 1mm thick trash bag. A school with 600 students generates between 13 to 20 bags of trash every lunch, each weighing around 12 -15 lbs, which means 333,333 bags of trash are burnt every day. That is an unfathomable number. I cannot even wrap my head around what kind of volume that represents. And that is just Westchester.
And New Rochelle Trinity students are drastically reducing their lunch waste by sorting. Out of 266 lbs of waste, only 4.5 lbs were non recyclable.
That is a whopping 98.3% reduction, simply by sorting out all the recycling, composting, excess liquid and the untouched foods. Through education and daily hands on participation, Trinity students care and they are making a huge difference. Can you just imagine if EVERY school did that? We Future Cycle is working towards just that.
Under the leadership of Interim Superintendent Dr. Jeffrey Korostoff and now to be continued by New Rochelle’s new Superintendent Dr. Brian Osborne, New Rochelle School District is finally eliminating disposable food trays made from Styrofoam from all of its cafeterias.
Expanded PolyStyrene, also known as “Styrofoam” contains Styrene and that chemical has been linked to cancer and has been classified in 2011 as “reasonably anticipated human carcinogen” by the US Department of Health.
This is a wonderful development and a major win of the health and well being of our children and the environment over short sighted consideration of the pocket book.
Styrofoam trays remain the cheapest options for school districts to feed their children on, but cheapest is clearly not in the best interest of the children. Actually, it is unconscionable of School Districts to feed children on this material.
Styrofoam trays are only the cheapest because none of the upstream nor downstream costs of this material is considered. The material uses toxic ingredients, has been linked to leaching these materials into the food and drink it comes in contact with, and creates massive amount of garbage that is either landfilled and NEVER goes away, or it is, in the case of Westchester County, incinerated to then release its Styrene into the air (and guess who is breathing that air?).
When it comes to the health and well-being of our children and ultimately of our community…. CHEAP is not the right solution.
New Rochelle School District is also implementing the School Lunch Recycling Program in all of its elementary and middle schools and is paving the way for other large school districts to follow. If a district with 11,000 students can put the health of its students first, so can others. Ultimately, by taking Styrofoam out of the system, and teaching the children to source separate in the buildings and the lunchroom, thus diverting 90% of the materials from trash to recycling, New Rochelle is set to save hundreds of thousands of dollars so far spent on Waste Management.
A Win-Win and WIN situation for the children, environment and ultimately the pocket book. All it takes, is a change of attitude.