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School's initiative gains traction

By Roger Greene
Coastal Observer

The recycling movement at Waccamaw Intermediate School has been the centerpiece of the school’s “green” initiative throughout the school year.

With each class equipped with recycling bins for items such as newspapers, magazines and plastic bottles, students have begun to understand the importance of turning used materials into new products and the principles of waste reduction.

It’s a lesson they are taking to heart.

“Our students are like the recycling police,” said Peggy Sumlin, a fifth-grade teacher.

“I’ll be in class and will throw something away and they’ll say ‘Ms. Sumlin, you shouldn’t throw that away, that should be recycled.’ What we’ve done this year has been the perfect way to turn them into green citizens. They’ve learned things that will benefit everyone in the years to come.”

The highlight of the recycling movement was the “Gators Go Green” fashion show in early February. Students and teachers modeled fashions made from 100 percent recycled material, such as garbage bags, water bottles, soda bottles and newspapers in front of about 350 people.

The event was part of ongoing preparations for Earth Day on April 22.

On Earth Day, students will watch a video about the benefits and importance of being environmentally friendly; read about environmental issues, endangered species and recycling; go on nature walks; and enjoy a picnic lunch.

Also, Bradford pear, river birch and other trees will be planted and the entire school will go paperless for the day.

“Everything we’re doing will factor into our students’ learning,” Gayle Bradshaw, a science lab teacher, said. “They’re inquiring about what is going on and want to take an active role in things.”

Beyond Earth Day, Waccamaw Intermediate will continue with its environmentally friendly approach by planting a garden in the front of the school and building a small greenhouse.

Both the garden and the greenhouse will be used by students in science lab.

An organic garden in place behind the school features strawberries, cucumbers, squash, broccoli, eggplant, potatoes, onions and watermelons.

Science lab students are already making use of the garden and are able to witness natural processes like photosynthesis and plant respiration, instead of relying on textbooks or computer technology to learn about them.

“The students love being able to work in the garden,” Bradshaw said. “I feel like it’s important sometimes to get them away from the computer and paper and allow them to have activities that are more hands-on. The garden allows that. They can get their hands dirty and plant.”

That kind of interactivity may steer students toward careers where green technologies can be incorporated such as science or biology.

“It’s about building their interest,” Bradshaw said. “Exposing them to these things now may offer them incentive to pursue science further in the future.”

Foremost in Sumlin’s plans is the completion of an outdoor classroom. Ambiance would be provided by oak trees, plants such as yellow jasmine and day lilies, birdbaths and miniature waterfalls. For seating, students would use stumps converted into stools by tree surgeons.

“[The classroom] is still in the planning stage, but I’d like to be able to break ground next month,” Sumlin said. “I think students will get so much enjoyment out of it.

“It will be ideal, especially for English classes, where they can sit outside in a peaceful environment and write poetry and stories.

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