Somehow becoming garden teacher also became becoming waste coordinator. I call myself "sustainability coordinator," but that is really just a fancy term for being responsible for making planet-friendly choices for 164 children's and 37 staff member's daytime trash. When I first started teaching, I was flabergasted by the amount of trash filling the cans after every day; some of the rubbish biodegradable, some recyclable, some reusable. There was the youth of America learning how to clean-up their messes in oblivious tosses at large containers that are taken away by nameless, faceless people and emptied into larger vats until they reach the last, hugest vat - the dump. Just like it was circa 1985 when I was in school. Public school has to be the change we want to see in the world. Obviously the situation was ripe for recycling efforts. I didn't think twice about setting up the basics, and it only took a few months to set up the rest.
IPCS now recycles cardboard, paper, aluminum, plastic 1,2,5, HI 5 aluminum, HI 5 plastics, batteries, capri-suns, and compost. Mr. G built our school's "Recycling Headquarters." Our public school is a recycling model for other institutions. Our first graders could tell you all kinds of information about recycling and some children even bring in their family's cardboard because they don't want to throw it away. Mr. G and I were trying to figure out the story behind some surprise Heineken bottles that showed up and found out that a fourth grader had brought them from home.
I am thrilled by all the recycling hooplah at our school. But the fact is, a public school can only have a concerted recycling effort with a go-to staff person. I made myself that person so I often find myself with fermented juice splattered all down my leg, or hauling 30 pound bags of paper like a recycling Santa.
But today I wasn't alone. Several A+ students shared the responsibility of removing the straws, squirting out left-over juice, and flattening capri-sun pouches. It is my least favorite self-imposed responsibility. You have to dodge cockroaches and lava beetles sqirming out of the capri-sun depths. You gotta watch out for the spray that goes off target and showers rotting sugar water all over your legs and slippers to form sticky juice mud. I was thrilled to safely engage students in the grossest job we got and they were helpful, smart, and inquisitive. We talked all about up-cylcing and lava beetles and cockroaches and native gechos and non-native gechos and centipedes and plastics that never go away and landfills. They successfully strategized an effective team method of doing the work and chatted the whole time.
I learned that being the change means engaging the youth in the change at every step. Even the capri-suns.
Krista Joan says:
My mission is to teach, train, and testify in resistance to the white supremacy of my ancestors. My personal choices are political, powerful, and practical. Let's trash waste.