Guest post by Ms. Deborah Ezell , Chesnee High School, Spartanburg School District 2
The Chesnee High School Water Bottle Project began as an offshoot of our recycling program and my marine science class. We discuss the ocean trash patch every semester and the amount of plastic that ends up in the ocean. Seeing the amount of water bottles in the recycling bins, I felt it was important to stress the need to reduce the amount of trash we generate all together.
A few students got together to make a video last year to introduce the idea to the school body about the ocean trash patch and the need to reduce the number of plastic bottles we use every day. The video was a necessary undertaking because the student body really had to understand why it is so important to stop using plastic bottles before they would buy into the inconvenience of having to fill their own bottle. They needed to know what was at stake.
The video was shown at the end of the 2014-2015 school year. At the beginning of the 2015-2016 school year we began distributing water bottles to the students. We kept coolers of ice water in each wing for students to fill up their bottles anytime during the day. The coolers were difficult to maintain because they had to be cleaned and refilled twice a day. It was very labor intensive and after six months of it the kids were getting a little tired.
Taking it to the next level
Winning the Champions of the Environment Award has allowed us to put in water fountains fitted for bottles and it has made all the difference for our water bottle program. The students in Chesnee are now invested in the program and would not want to go back to the days without the bottle fountain. We have lowered the number of plastic water bottles by 30 percent in 2015. Since January 2016 we have lowered the number by almost 50 percent!
The City of Spartanburg has begun a water bottle program, so I hope our success helps the city make a water bottle program successful across the city. We plan on taking our show on the road and spreading the word at the Spartanburg Earth Day festival and The Spring Fling Festival.
I feel like this program will continue to be successful in the future because the students feel a sense of ownership in it. They designed the school recycling logo, created the video, wrote the grant application and then won the award. They feel pride in what they have accomplished and that pride will help keep this program going for a long long time. These kinds of programs can be difficult sometimes, but when the students take ownership of their work you as the teacher can spend more time helping them understand the importance of what they are doing.
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.