Rutland Middle School – Grade 7 Recycling Challenge

August 22, 2017

My grade 7 students at Rutland Middle School were challenged to come up with a way to contribute to our school community. We brain stormed ideas and decided to implement a more comprehensive bottle/can recycling program as there was currently very little in place. I did some research, discovered the Return-it School contest online and signed them up. From there my classes sorted all the school’s bottle/can recycling. The classes were horrified at how poor our school recycling program previously was, and how gross the bins were. We identified and wrote down the main problems with the current system and students paired up to create a PowerPoint presentation to educate their peers. From there, each mentorship class (mixed grade 6-8) got a presentation from one of the pairs to increase awareness of the situation. We noticed an improvement initially but only to a certain point. We then brainstormed why and came up with a poster to place on and above recycling bins to make it more obvious. The students were enthused by their progress and leadership involvement within the school.

As we got closer to the deadline, the students reminded me we had discussed doing a bottle drive. I organized it, and with help from some amazing students, parents, and staff volunteers, we almost double our earnings for the year in that one day! After the contest closed, the students were very excited to learn that not only had they made it in the top 3 but also earned 2nd overall! We shared our progress with the mentorship classes, and surveyed the whole school to find out what the students want to use the money for. Our hope is that if the students see that the money goes towards what they want, they will be more inclined to recycle and more invested in their school community. I received the surveys back and was amazed by the ideas. The students had ideas that I would have never thought of but, on reflection, are obviously important! They would like more seating in and outside the building, and recycling bins that are different from the garbage bins. They would also like clocks in the hallways, another water fountain outside, ramps for accessibility and incentives to encourage more recycling. We reviewed the choices with the students and, at this point, are looking at getting a quote for adding more benches outside. We are moving forward with replacing the recycling garbage bins with proper blue bins, adding clocks in the hallway, and looking into the feasibility of an outside water fountain. We discovered a ramp is too expensive so it will not be feasible with the funds we raised. Hopefully we will be able to accomplish this with any future funds we raise.