Recycling Crew shares expertise with Woodland Academy students

Clark students (from left to right) Heather MacKenzie ’12, Shannon Choquette ’12, Olivia McGill ’13 and Will Cutshall ’13 watch as a fifth grader from Woodland Academy takes an item out of a trash bag and decides if it can be recycled.

Fifth grade students at Woodland Academy are thinking twice before throwing things away these days, thanks to the thoughtful guidance of a handful of Clark University students.

When Rebecca Zilberstein ’12, a candidate for a Master of Arts in Teaching and student intern at the school, discovered the school didn’t have a recycling program in place, she knew just what to do.  Zilberstein talked with Jenny Isler, Clark’s Sustainability Coordinator, who gave her advice about how to approach the topic of recycling with the school’s administration and told her to look no further than Clark’s own Recycling Crew for help designing a program to introduce the topic to her students.

'I hope that this modest introduction will allow the students to begin recycling at home if they don’t already do so.'

~Olivia McGill '13

Zilberstein consulted Olivia McGill ’13 (who had also taught at the school) and Heather MacKenzie ’12, and they began to think of ways to get the schoolchildren talking about recycling. McGill and MacKenzie worked together to design a program that combined on-site hands-on activities with brief lessons to introduce ways of “living greener” — starting with the three Rs of reduce, reuse, recycle — to the children. Not only would the program educate them about the importance of recycling and taking care of the planet, it would engage them in an exercise that would also satisfy their science curriculum.

On February 8, Isler, McGill, MacKenzie and two other members of Clark’s Recycling Crew — Shannon Choquette ’12, and Will Cutshall ’13 — volunteered to lead the students in a 50-minute interactive program on recycling. The program included a presentation on the importance of waste reduction and recycling as well as hands-on activities that enabled the children to sort trash and create “We Recycle” signs for display on the school premises.

“I hope that this modest introduction will allow the students to begin recycling at home if they don’t already do so. This lesson is the first step,” said McGill.

During the program, Clark students zealously answered all questions, spoke about best practices and challenges of recycling, and reiterated the benefits of practicing the three R's of waste management every day. The hands-on demonstration resonated with the students more than any written instructions would have.

(From left) Olivia McGill ’13, Sustainability Coordinator Jenny Isler, Shannon Choquette ’12, Will Cutshall ’13, and Heather MacKenzie ’12 pose for a picture outside of Woodland Academy.

“Even though Clark seems distant as a busy fifth-year student, it was great to still have a group of dedicated undergraduates to collaborate with,” said Zilberstein.  “My students loved having Clark students in the classroom. They were engaged and loved every minute of it. They viewed the sustainability team as experts, and took what they had to say very seriously.”

Clark students will continue to collaborate with the school on its recycling program. The Woodland Academy students are planning a tour of Clark’s Recycling Center in the near future.

“This has evolved into an amazing collaboration between our students and the students and teachers at Woodland Academy,” said Isler.  “If this isn’t ‘Changing Our World,’ I just don’t know what is.”

~ Gitanjali Laad, M.S.P.C. '12

Photos by Champo Mapulanga '13