With 10 hours before the assembly to spare, I finally totaled our school's data from these many months of recording greywater and paper recycling numbers. Students sat still and quiet as I (with the help of my handsome son assistanting) reviewed total pounds of paper we recycled, how many pencils Mr. G. and I picked up in nooks and crannies all over our campus, and how many gallons of water our garden class' greywater system supplied to thirsty plants.
Students cheered with bold volume as I told them that our school had recycled 1977 pounds of paper. Ocean helped me unfold a perfectly-fine, thrown-away segment of that brown paper that comes on big rolls that I had stowed away for reuse months earlier. With ink just barely dried, the reused paper unfolded at least 6 ft long.
It depicted the mathmatical wizardry of data. With every one of those 1997 pounds accounting for 16 onces, 16 X 1977 is 31,632 ounces. If one piece of paper equals .12 onces, dividing 31632 by .12 equals 263,600 pieces of paper recycled by our school. With our school population totaling 185, dividing 263,600 by 185 is 1425; the number of pieces of paper each student used at our school and recycled last school year. With the words barely out my mouth, I heard two kids in front whisper to each other, "No way, I didn't do that. Nuhuah." I said, "Hey guys and gals, remember when you point blame at other people, you have three fingers pointing back at you." Of course, they all pointed at each other to see if three fingers really do point back. They do.
Wow said the kids. I pulled out three reams of copy paper, 500 each times three, equaling just under the number of papers used by our students. 1425 - the amount of sheets of paper used by each student in 2010/11. Paper makes up the most matter in our landfills, said the graph I showed from a "Begining Reader" pamphlet I picked out of our recycling as I was shleping it around one day. Americans discard over 80 million pounds last year alone. Paper is a biodegradable and recyclable substance that can't biodegrade when it ends up in oxygen-free, toxic as all get out, landfills. We kept 1977 pounds out of our beloved Waikoloa landfill; a sludge basin just a quarter mile mountain of the sea.
Take the math a step further. If one paper-producing pine tree is 850 pounds, our efforts saved two and a quarter trees; a fact I also drew on the unfolded paper.
I asked 7/8 grade students the same question a month earlier when they were pre-fiddling with the data. When I asked them if it was worth it, to haul around all this rubbish (because these kids are the students doing the data recording), they enlightened me with responses. One eighth grade boy I surf with regularly said, "How do you measure microorganisms?" Another seventh grade girl said, "Ms. Krista, you told us that these paper mills are next to rivers so they can put thier pollution there. How do you put a dollar sign on keeping pollution out of a river?"
I didn't stop the assembly to ask how the elementary students felt about saving two trees. When my son and I had been discussing the findings earlier he said, "If we keep that up, we'll save a whole forest."
I went on to talk about our greywater findings. Our garden sink is a shanty-town sink put together out of an old pallet and a dicarded double-bowled stainless steel sink. The drains empty into two five-gallon buckets. We keep track of how many times Ms. Melissa and I dump the filled buckets over thirsty plants through-out the school year. I showed our non-fancy data sheets to the students and unfolded the big sheet that showed our total; 870 gallons of water fed to plants instead of drained down the sewer. The other posters I pulled out showed that 870 gallons equals two hot tubs worth of water and 58 showers (two months worth!). Kids were wowed.
Last item; pencils. We calculated that Mr. G picked up an additional 223 pencils since March, when he had picked up 233 since Sept. Between August and Sept, he had picked up 438 pencils! In all, Mr. G picked up 839 pencils this year!! We love you Mr. G!
Like I told the kids, I feel inspired by this data. It shows that IPCS students are doing some important work, putting rubbish in its new place - the recycler or the compost - more than ever before. No other public schools are doing IPCS style recyling on our Island! Our students are the change we need for a healthy future. I got all choked up and maybe even some of them did too.
My collegue told me she overheard some kids after the assembly, walking to class, saying, "I guess adults do math too." Who knew that math wizardry would be so powerful? That kids can learn recycling and the awesomeness that math can be all in one assembly? That ten-year-olds can save two trees and see the forest? I am still glowing...
What better way to study inventions but to design them yourself? What better way to learn how easy it is to recycle water than to design a drainage system that enables every student to water plants when they wash their hands?
I am bursting with hope for the future to announce that our third and forth grade gardeners have sucessfully designed and implemented a beautiful and functional greywater system off the wasted art room sink water. Where once a drain poured perfectly useful dirty water into the gravel now lies a bamboo french drain irrigating 10 feet of space.
The greywater system is a school-wide effort. Seventh and eighth grade gardeners harvested and hauled old-growth bamboo from a friend's coffee farm. Third and fourth graders worked with IPCS Fascilities Specialist Alex Garcia using a simple wedge to split in half longways yellow-with-green-stripes bamboo the circumference of my thigh and approx 8 feet long. Students loved seeing the power of the humble wedge at work. Mr. G brought the ever-popular power drill so students could take turns drilling drain holes the legnth of the bamboo. And students lined up patiently for their turn with the awesome power sander for the smooth finishing touch.
Another class of third and fourth grades carried the bamboo to the greywater site. They hacked out spider lilies taller than they are with the efficency of a herd of beavers. Students dug a trough to lay the system's pipe, connected the bamboo to the sink drain pipe, and turned on the facet for a test run.
But alas, like any new invention, it did not work right at first. Too wide were the holes, too tall were the segment separaters in the bamboo, and not enough slope prevented water from trickling more than five inches.
I was amazed that within a few powerful seconds of thought, more than one inventor noted that added height would work with gravity to push more water down the bamboo and rocks could easily help plug the holes. We rigged up a support system for the drain connector and dug a trough to help stabalize the bamboo pipe.
Our whole ohana can see now how simple ingenuity can help recycle water. Using greywater efficiently will be a huge resource in upcoming decades. With these inventors at the helm of our country, we should be able to incorporate greywater systems into the everyday fiber of our existance.
Ms Krista says:
Everyday encounters with real garden sprites; tortuous panorama of the surf; old-growth collards; machete lessons; mantis rehab; pesto pasta. Days as a public school garden teacher on the Big Island are filled with unexpected gems of wisdom and infinite inspirations. Introducing my life as a school garden teacher...