Thursday, October 27, 2011

At North Hill, It's in the Bag

Principal Nancy Melius jumps into a pile of bags
 The challenge of this blog is that these posts can't keep up with my visits to schools and community organizations. Right now, I have about ten visits I haven't yet written up. One of those was to North Hill Elementary two weeks ago. What did I visit at North Hill? A bus full of plastic bags. Need an explanation?

North Hill Elementary collected the most plastic grocery bags in a regional contest sponsored by King County to raise awareness of recycling. How many bags did North Hill collect? Try 630. No, not 630 bags...630 pounds of those thin bags from the grocery store. Shorewood Elementary came in second with more than 500 pounds. In a recent photo op, North Hill students loaded a school bus FULL of those bags.

Perhaps the reason this post took me two weeks was finding the right educational context for it. Here goes: We often speak of "college, career, and citizenship." Usually, we follow up by expanding on pathways to two and four year colleges. Sometimes we speak of the careers of the future. But without a doubt, we are least likely to speak about citizenship. And we should. Is collecting bags a rigorous intellectual experience? No. Maybe Ms. Edwards found a curricular tie-in for her fifth graders, but that's not really the point.

When I was in elementary school, a classmate of mine conducted an experiment and presented it to our class. Her house had a leaky faucet and her parents didn't think it was a problem, other than being a nuisance. My friend Laurie plugged the sink in the evening and the experiment came to abrupt end in the middle of the night when those little drops ended up overflowing the sink. I remember that lesson thirty years later and hopefully I'm a little better citizen for the experience. Thirty years from now, the students of North Hill will remember the day they filled a school bus with plastic bags, and hopefully they'll be better citizens for the experience, too.

Des Moines Mayor Bob Sheckler commends the students
King County employee Tom Watson presents a bench made of recycled plastics
5th grade teacher Sherry Edwards led the collection effort
The event drew lots of media attention
The assembly line moved a LOT of bags
And now, we're driving the bus! (Well, sort of)

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