“Who recycles? We recycle! What do we recycle? Bottles and cans. Bottles and cans.”
This is the chant that parents and students hear during morning drop-off at Adelaide Price Elementary School on Thursdays.
Wearing green recycling club T-shirts, the student members carry signs encouraging their peers to do their part in protecting the community and environment. Their cheers grow each time someone drops off a box or bag of plastic bottles and aluminum cans.
“Students bring recyclables, and we take them to the recycling center,” Principal Dr. Monica Munguia Valencia said. “What this does for our students is it brings the textbook to life. We are to connect the standards to real world practices.”
In 2021, OCDE’s Inside the Outdoors environmental education program, in partnership with OC Waste & Recycling, launched a new curricular initiative aimed at challenging local leaders to adopt sustainable behaviors.
Under the Eco Challenge umbrella, the program provides local educators with materials that support classroom lessons, student engagement and family activities connected to Orange County’s waste diversion efforts. Nearly 20 local schools participated in a pilot program and dozens more implemented the curriculum — including Adelaide Price and other campuses in the Anaheim Elementary School District.
“OC Waste & Recycling has a long-standing relationship with the OC Department of Education and Inside the Outdoors to bring engaging classroom, after-school and summer school programs to teachers and students,” said OC Waste & Recycling’s community program manager, Irene Alonso. “Not only do kids learn about recycling best practices, but they also understand the importance of their role, and how small changes directly impact the local resources in our own backyards, such as preserving landfill space, reducing greenhouse gasses and generating new resources, such as energy and renewable gas.”
America Recycles Day
In recognition of America Recycles Day on Nov. 15, which recognizes the importance and impact of recycling, Inside the Outdoors and OC Waste & Recycling representatives visited Price Elementary to demonstrate to students how to expand on their current recycling efforts.
OC Waste & Recycling enlisted the help from its partner, Alan Piercy, the founder of Environmental Education Services and Programs, to show students how waste diversion, which is the prevention and reduction of generated waste through source reduction, can be done on campus through composting with soil, worms and food.
“It’s basically nature’s way of recycling,” Piercy said. “Not only is it recycling that decomposes organic matter, it’s providing nutrients back to the soil.”
In turn, compost can be added to soil to help plants grow. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, food scraps and yard waste together currently make up more than 30 percent of what people throw away and could be composted instead. Making compost keeps these materials out of landfills where they take up the most space and release potent greenhouse gas.
To put all of that into perspective, ITO Outreach Manager Yarib Dheming brought a garter snake and some giant African millipedes to explain how recycling can help protect the environment for wildlife and people.
“The activities today just closes the loop on what they’re learning in the classroom, what they’re learning outside of the classroom and what they’re also learning in their community as well,” said Dheming.
Turning recycling into a daily commitment
Students at the Anaheim Elementary School District campus collect recyclables from their peers and families every Thursday. At the end of the week, club advisor and teacher Ray Vidales takes the students to a nearby recycling collection site.
In addition to learning the curriculum developed by ITO and OC Waste & Recycling, the teacher and students have also begun composting on campus.
“The more we celebrate recycling at schools, the more information gets taken home and then habits are formed with families,” said Vidales.
The campus has a goal of reaching creating zero waste someday. For now, students hope that what they are doing on campus to protect the environment will inspire others to do the same this America Recycles Day and every day.
For additional information on Eco Challenge and how local educators can adopt curriculum in classrooms, please contact Inside the Outdoors at email@example.com.
OCDE’s Inside the Outdoors has been a leader in hands-on science and social science programs since 1974. The mission of the program is to empower students, teachers, parents and the community to explore natural areas and expand their knowledge, understanding and stewardship of the environment. To learn more about Inside the Outdoors, visit the ITO website.