The students at West University Elementary School are recycling experts. They check the bottoms of plastic containers for identification codes. They know which items are eligible for curbside recycling and which need to be returned to the grocery store. They even know what to do to conserve water and energy. Their recycling know-how could give most adults a run for their money. West U staff and parents have made sure of this.
Recycling and conservation are a part of West U’s regular curriculum. But for Earth Week – beginning April 18 and ending on Earth Day, April 22– students participated in games and targeted lessons to hone their knowledge of recycling best practices and learn how to implement them in their everyday lives. West U, in partnership with HISD’s Energy and Sustainability Department, is rising to the challenge by providing new recycling bins and education opportunities for the students and maintenance staff to drive these practices home.
Lindsey Gregory is a West U parent and member of the City of West U Recycle and Waste Reduction Board. She and fellow moms Julie Fehl and Leslie Delcid were instrumental in kickstarting these initiatives for the students.
“They know what they need to do to recycle,” said Gregory. “It’s just a matter of giving them opportunities to do the right thing.”
In a science ancillary class, students gathered around a box with pigeonholes containing different items and were tasked with matching each material to its appropriate process for disposal.
In PE, students formed two lines for a recycling relay race where they separated items into recyclable and non-recyclable piles, coaching and correcting each other with knowledge and enthusiasm.
In the school library, students cut out leaves made of recycled paper and decorated them with their own personal conservation pledges to place on a massive paper tree on the wall outside.
Second grader Alexa Clark knows that small changes can have a big impact. “I’m going to turn off the sink when I’m brushing my teeth and not waste water,” she said.
In addition to these hands-on lessons, West U is installing new recycling bins in the cafeteria. It will give students first-hand recycling experience while alleviating the responsibility of trash sorting from the school’s maintenance staff.
These initiatives were inspired by a “dumpster dive,” according to Gregory, where it was discovered that West U students and staff could be doing more to mitigate the school’s waste.
Assistant Principal Amber Pinchback has seen a difference in her students since the recycling initiatives were established. “Students are taking more responsibility for their items at lunch, in the classroom, at home,” Pinchback said. “It’s fun to see them learn these things, and if they can teach each other, that’s how they’re going to stick with it.”