Elementary school starts recycling program

A state grant has elementary and college students, teachers, professors, and parents all working together to bring recycling to the Grace B. Luhrs University Elementary School at Shippensburg University.

Dr. Sean Cornell, assistant professor of geography/earth science, said half of the $10,000 environmental education grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection will buy building supplies to construct six storm-water reclamation and composting units, "a new concept of our own design," which will be located right outside Luhrs classrooms. The other half will buy educational supplies, things like microscopes, thermometers, water testing kits and books on composting and rainwater retention for use in the classroom.

 "As an environmental scientist, environmental educator, and environmentalist, I think what is occurring at GBLUES (the nickname for Luhrs) is outstanding," said Dr. Richard Stewart, associate professor of biology, who helped Cornell write the grant proposal. "One of the reasons environmental education in the U.S. is not as effective as it should be is that there are few opportunities in traditional education to have an impact. The effort at GBLUES is exactly the type of learning that should make a difference in the environmental education of those students."

College students in Stewart's Environmental Practicum Class are also working with the project.

Brielle Dalious, a junior secondary education major from Hamburg, said, "I thought it was a really great idea. We offered help to teachers about what they want to do with their boxes and helped set up a teaching curriculum involving the project."

Ashley Griffith, a senior secondary education major from Pottstown, said exposing students to composting and recycling is important. "I think it would be great to use this as a model if I taught elementary or even middle school," she said. "Kids are really receptive to recycling and trying to keep the earth healthy."

Another college student involved in the project, Kristen Varner, of Mercersburg, is working on her teaching certification. "I think it's a great idea for elementary school. They can become aware and make their parents aware." And Varner, an avid recycler, said having the elementary school students involved with building the project "makes it more personal."

Stewart plans to have students in his future classes continue working with the project.
Site work began earlier in November for what Cornell described as "a three-tiered" unit that looks "almost like stadium style seating." Each system will include rain barrels connected into the school's gutter system. Each unit will capture and store rainwater, will include a composting system and can be converted into a mini greenhouse in the spring, according to Cornell.

He said the goal of the project is to teach elementary school students about water-resource issues so they "will be more cognizant about how much water they are using and ways to conserve water."

Reclaimed water will be used in place of tap water for things like cleaning paint brushes, Cornell said, and for watering gardens. Vegetable matter left over from school lunches (apple cores, carrot sticks etc.), coffee grounds, paper towels, and yard or garden waste produced at the school will all go to the compost sites. "It will not be a lot of material, but it could be several hundred pounds of material per school year." Once composted, it will be used on the raised beds on the elementary school's playground or around campus.

The project has caught the imagination of the students at Luhrs. Konnie Serr, assistant professor of teacher education, said, "we are all very excited on every grade level." She said her first grade students created sketches of what they thought the structure should look like and were excited about the project breaking ground. Serr said school personnel have incorporated lessons associated with the project into their DASH (Developmental Approaches in Science and Health) curriculum.

James Zullinger, an associate professor of teacher education, said his kindergarten students will work with the project for six years. "Water usage, composting and gardening are all integral to our classroom," he said. "This project will build community in our school since all classes will participate as well as the parent community."

Zullinger added, "One of our goals is to present this as a model project at different educational conventions in hopes that other schools will be able to follow our model."{