Assignment: Education – Recycling Pals

La Crosse student inspires her school to recycle

Kids learn important lessons in the classroom and, sometimes, they turn those lessons into ideas.

“It’s not uncommon for kids to come in and have an idea and pitch it to me,’ said Shelley Shirel, Spence Elementary School principal.

The La Crosse principal says that was the case with third-grader Adeline Marcou-Smart.

“We recycled in the classroom, but we didn’t recycle in the lunchroom,” said Adeline.

Adeline wanted that to change.

“People were throwing away all those recyclables like juice cartons,” she said.

So Adeline wrote a persuasive letter to her principal.

“I gave her three reasons why it was important to recycle and I told her why I wanted to do it,” Adeline said.

“So I just presented her with some of the challenges, barriers that I saw and said, ‘Why don’t you go back to your classroom and talk with mom and dad, and see if you can figure out some ways to solve some of these?'” said Shirel.

One of the issues involved how she would get an entire school to participate in a recycling program. With the help of her teacher, Liz Heath-Leirmo, Adeline started doing her homework.

“She did quite a bit of research on how she was going to convince 440 other kids in the school to recycle, because it’s easy for her to want to do it, but for everyone else is it important to them,” said Heath-Leirmo.

Adeline and some classmates started making posters to raise awareness about her idea.

“I had to go to every class to do presentations to let them know what to do with it, and that there was going to be a recycling bin in the lunchroom,” the third-grader said.

“I really think this empowers kids and builds their leadership capabilities,” said Shirel.

Adeline’s hard work washed away any potential challenges for a successful recycling program. It got underway in mid-March.

“We put the recyclables in here (water bucket),” Adeline said. “We wash them out and we put them in here (recycling bucket).”

Adeline, along with nine other students, formed the Recycling Pals club.

“We look through cold lunches and we grab things from them if they have a hot lunch,” she said.

After one month of practice, all of the students now know what to look for.

“Kids are monitoring themselves and they’re looking at their own trays, and they’re looking for that triangle and just going ahead and handing it off and not having a recycling pal tell them,” said Heath-Leirmo.

The idea to keep plastics and cardboard out of the trash, of course, isn’t a new one, but the concept has been recycled by a third-grader hoping to inspire her classmates to make a change.

“Now there’s less pollution- and less recyclables are getting thrown out,” Adeline said.