Each year, the fourth-grade students in Tanya Mock’s class at East Millsboro Elementary School study a unit about preserving and protecting the environment.
“The stories focus on the positive and negative aspects of forest fires, rain forest destruction, ways we are polluting the environment and how we can help,” said Mock.
The students complete an exhaustive research project using the Internet. All of these activities lead them up to Earth Day, which occurs each April.
“Each year during Earth Day,” said Mock, “I have my students spend the morning cleaning up the grounds by collecting trash. Last year’s class was very surprised at how much trash was found on the playground. Then they started noticing how many water bottles and pieces of paper were being thrown away in our classroom alone.”
Through all of this experience and their independent research, Mock’s students decided they wanted to start a recycling program at East Millsboro. It was an idea that people had had before them, but they were the first to make it a reality.
With persuasive letters to the school administration and a display of letters, posters and data, the students finally got the approval they needed to start their program.
“As the school year came to an end last June, I began the process of contacting DSWA to see if they could help me implement the program. Through many phone calls and e-mails, our recycling program kicked off in October 2007,” said Mock with pride.
“DSWA even came to the school and presented a recycling program to all the kids in pre-K to fifth (grade), explaining the importance and benefits of recycling in today’s world — they even suggested that each classroom design a recycling bin to collect papers and plastics,” she added.
The students have designed everything from robots, to Trash Can Dan, to trash trucks, and DSWA will return in February to judge and announce winners, in which one class per grade level will win an ice cream party for their designs.
Since its start in October, the students at East Millsboro Elementary have recycled at least 20 large bags of plastic bottles and more than 30 bags of paper, which Mock handles personally by driving it to the nearest drop-off location, at the Millsboro Civic Center. They are currently in the process of getting curbside recycling at the school.
When asked about the success of the program, Mock gushed. “The students here have been every excited about this. It’s kind of funny to a degree. They want to recycle every single tiny piece of paper they find. I know my current students do not throw away anything that’s paper in the trash. They are very anxious to throw things in the recycling bin!
“The ultimate goal is for students to go home and talk to their parents about East Millsboro Elementary helping the environment and to encourage their parents to join in as well,” she said.