Meet Brian, New Rochelle Trinity’s long term lunchroom cleaner. He is running one of the busiest lunchrooms in the district with about 150 kids per lunch period by himself. And it does not phase him. Calmly he keeps everything clean and organized and the kids love him.
Trinity is one of the first New Rochelle schools to run the We Future Cycle program and has never wavered and by now, the entire school population has never seen anything but calmly getting up, walking to the recycling station and sorting their lunch waste into excess liquid, recyclable, non-recyclable and compostable, thus reducing garbage by 97%.
Brian has been helping with this process and thanks to his friendly and inviting attitude, he has student helpers every day, clamoring for the job. Brian’s only rule is that the students have to have eaten first and then everybody gets a chance to help. Sometimes he has more helpers than space, but he is a wonderful sport about it.
This kind of adult support is what makes the Trinity program so special and sustainable, there is buy-in from all adults and it permeates through the building.
Walking into a classroom of 1st graders, armed with a bin of worms is a fun thing. Students usually squirm a bit, are slightly afraid and timidly even voice that feeling, but in general, get engaged very quickly to learn about why wriggly, slimy worms are so important to our world.
Students learn that worms are living beings that breathe through their skin. I enjoy watching them looking in disbelief at their skin trying to grasp the concept. Worms can eat enormous amounts , half of their body weight every day. To demonstrate that to the students I have them get up and put their hand at slightly above their waste and ask them to look down upon their legs and to imagine to have THAT much to eat every day.
After learning how they move, what muscles can do, how worms reproduce (by laying cocoons that contain 2 to 3 live worms, just in case the intrepid reader of this post was interested in these details), students had a chance to get up close and personal with a handful of worms.
Checking out to see the castings in the translucent tail sections of the worm gave way to great excitement and when we found the mother load of cocoons, the students were beside themselves with excitement.
Teaching students that every living being has important jobs to do and without these jobs done, everybody is in trouble is an important life lesson for kids to learn. All worms ended up with names. Jeffrey seemed to be the favorite. Students wrote afterwards what they learned about worms and they all agreed that worms are our friends.
New Rochelle Trinity Elementary School is entering its 5th year running the We Future Cycle recycling program and students are getting trained on how to sort their lunch waste into compost, recyclables and trash.
Like every year, We Future Cycle presenters swoop upon the school and go from classroom to classroom to playfully introduce the students to the concept of recycling and to the problems attached to garbage. All students start out considering anything empty as garbage. Upon asking if they thought I brought them recycling, they clearly were reconsidering their position and some raised their hands. And they were quite astonished to learn that I just brought them packaging material, and they decided if that became garbage or recycling. It was fascinating to watch how something shifted inside them. THEY decided on something as important as putting something in recycling.
The We Future Cycle Recycling program teaches children to separate recyclable material from food and non recyclable material, and this reduces garbage by a whopping 97%. Trinity is consistently at below 6 lbs of trash from the entire lunch of nearly 1000 students.
Students learned that packaging is similar to Lego. If is put into the correct bin, it can be taken apart again and the same material blocks can be used to build something new. Students totally get that concept!
Learning that left over food can be recycled too was a bit of a stretch for them, but when I showed them what compost looked like and let them smell it, they all agreed that it is much better to make good soil than burn our banana peel.
Celebrating Earthday is no small matter in New Rochelle Trinity Elementary School. Assistant Principal Michael Hildebrand scheduled presenters from We Future Cycle for all Kindergarten through 3rd grades and the school was positively vibrating with good energy.
In class by class presentations, second graders learned concepts of what materials can bio-degrade and what that means in terms of this material entering our environment. They learned about decomposition, seed germination and a touch of the chemical processes behind that.
Students had the opportunity to be hands-on scientists and explored how different materials interacted with water. quite messy in fact, but also eye opening to learn and experience that plastics are not changed by water, other than broken into smaller plastic pieces over time, until they are small enough to enter the food chain.
Watching a heart wrenching short movie about how wild life is affected by plastic in our environment started a spirited discussion on what each and every one of them can do to solve this problem. Students decided to become vocal to educate other about the problem. Check out these fabulous posters as the result. These are mini-environmentalists on their way to become agents of change. Way to go!
Being in an elementary level lunchroom is not for the faint hearted. The noise level is deafening. But fearlessly, We Future Cycle set up the Lunchroom Environmental Scavenger Hunt in New Rochelle Trinity’s lunchroom.
As 3rd graders came in, they bee-lined to the colorful posters, all depicting shocking data about environmental problems surrounding them. They open mouthed stared at pictures of turtles eating a floating plastic bag while trying to figure out what a trillion plastic bags per year in the world actually means. And they are not alone, it is a staggering number that nobody can really wrap their head around. Students that wanted to participate in the game were sent to eat first and then come and get a detective sheet. In order to answer the questions, students had to study the poster boards carefully and they were all game to play.
And as they worked (quietly, there was a marked noise level difference), they learned and shared with their friend the surprise about some of these staggering facts. The US alone uses 500 Million straws every single day!
Rye Town just joined “The Last Straw” Campaign. Everybody can make a difference by ditching straws, replacing single serve plastic bags and being good about recycling all appropriate materials.
They also learned about the dismal recycling rate of single serve plastic bottles. These kids are old hands in recycling and they asked me why not everybody was just recycling…. Good question, indeed.
Under the leadership of Assistant Principal Michael Hildebrand, New Rochelle Trinity students are able to participate in school wide Earth Day activities and are loving it.
A team of We Future Cycle presenters descended upon the school and had great fun introducing kindergarten students and first graders to worms and worm composting.
Students were somewhat hesitant when they saw the worms, some leaned far back into their chairs, some even voiced how nervous they were. But learning about how worms master this world, and how important their jobs are, won them over and when the time came to get down and dirty with a handful of worms on a wet paper towel, they were all game. Armed with the new minted knowledge of how worms moved, they watched with the magnifying glass (it was not really needed, but they all LOVED having one in their hand) At the end of the lesson, each worm had a name, and all expressed their love, one student asked if she could kiss him…. 🙂
The key to environmental literacy is sustained education around different aspects. Trinity elementary students are old hands at sorting in the lunchroom, being the longest school on board of the We Future Cycle recycling program. Flawlessly they separate commingled from food waste and from remaining trash. And with the never wavering support of the Trinity administrations, students are treated regularly to environmental education and they are loving it!. Today’s classes were suppose to be 45 min, but often, I did not get out of there until 1:15 min because students had so many great questions. This is how future environmental leaders are made.
New Rochelle Trinity Elementary School is a shining example on how teaching students young creates life long behavior changes. Two years ago, We Future Cycle introduced the Waste Free Snack program to the school. All students went through class by class presentations about how to reduce packaging waste from snack in the classrooms in addition to making healthier snack choices.
Part of the program is that the healthy snack waste like the banana peel or the apple core will NOT go in the trash, but will be brought by the students down to the lunchroom to be combined with the lunch compost.
On my recent visits to Trinity I was reminded again that learning young is the basis for life long learning.
Check out this student very carefully transporting and combining her classrooms healthy snack waste with the compost from the lunchroom.