Guest Post by Ms. Brooke Scott, Deerfield Elementary School
Environmental education has always been a passion of mine. I fully believe in environmental project based education, which helps students learn to care about the planet, about their community, and about each other. I work to build students’ sense of environmental self-efficacy, empowering them to improve the planet and to encourage others to do likewise. I want our students to feel they are leaders who are making great things happen. They are the change agents of the future.
Over the past two years, Deerfield Elementary in Lexington, South Carolina has created a strong recycling program. This year we directed our focus on ways we can partner with the community to make an even stronger and lasting impact on the environment and strengthen our recycling and conservation programs.
We expanded the amount of items we recycle and developed a more efficient recycling system by utilizing the recycling organizers we purchased through the Champions of the Environment grant from S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control. We created a “Planet Heroes Conservation Team” that is responsible for all of our recycling and conservation efforts throughout the school. The team is composed of two students from each classroom and the team rotates in new students every nine weeks. By year’s end almost 200 students will have served as a Planet Hero and learned about the importance of conservation and recycling.
We share our progress and our recycling efforts through “thermometers” placed in the hallways and through QR codes placed near our recycling organizers. Many relationships have been formed and ideas have been shared through our recycling efforts and events. We have impacted possibly thousands of people through social media, school-wide events, infographics, and presentations. We have worked diligently to share the story about our recycling success to hopefully motivate and inspire others. Seeing the students’ leadership shine through these opportunities is truly the best part of the project!
Challenges present themselves at various times. One challenge we face is getting the recycling to yard container in the back of the school. We are still working through this process, especially since it presents a safety risk for students dumping materials from a loading dock and requires constant supervision.
Teaching students, parents, businesses and community members about the importance of reducing landfills, saving natural resources, eliminating pollution, recycling and reducing greenhouse gas can have positive impacts on the environment for many years to come.
My advice for teachers wanting to start an environmental education project is always have your students in mind when planning anything. What do you want them to know and be able to do at the end of the project? How can you help them become leaders and teach others? Find opportunities to let your students shine! All learning should be authentic and relevant to students. Get the community involved and utilize resources around you. Don’t be afraid to ask experts to come talk to your students, plan a skype session, or have your students interview them! So many people are willing to help!
This post is part of a series of posts on environmental education submitted by DHEC’s Champions of the Environment 2016 winners.
About Champions of the Environment
Champions of the Environment provides resources and support to foster environmental education and action in South Carolina’s kindergarten through 12th grade classrooms. The program is sponsored by S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, International Paper and SCE&G, with assistance from the Environmental Education Association of South Carolina. For more information, visit www.scdhec.gov/champions.