There is a group of elementary school students who do not mind getting their hands dirty. They are members of the Green Team at Indian Creek Elementary School. Each Monday, this group of 25-30 students gather to rid the school grounds of litter. They divide into teams to collect recycling, change trash can liners, and pick up trash from the grounds.
The team is the mastermind of Coach Andrew Ross and Ms. Caitlin Hill. Both teachers were active in the three clean-up days held at the school in the past year. Coach Ross noticed that after each clean-up the trash lessened, but knew that it was important to have more regular clean-ups to create a culture that was litter-free. Permission slips were sent home and he had no idea how many students would show up. A few months later, 25-30 students regularly participate and they are seeing a definite decline in amount of trash to be picked up.
When asked why they participated, the students responded with answers that would be music to the ears of anyone interested in stewarding citizens for the future. “I want my school to be a nice clean place!” “It’s good for the earth.” “It’s important to my community.” “It helps the animals survive in their habitats.”
Ms. Hill noted that her students often pick up litter they see when they are at recess. The habits reach beyond the school campus. When the students were asked what they do when they see trash near their homes or elsewhere, all 25 students boomed, “We pick it up!”
Trash pick-up was only a beginning for the Green Team. When the teacher who managed the school’s recycling program left the school, the students decided they wanted to take on the task of recycling. With a student body of almost 1,000 students, this was no small feat and it was out of the group’s original mission.
“Recycling wasn’t even in my view. I wanted to focus on trash pick-up, but the students really wanted to do recycling. So I said, ‘Why not’?”, said Coach Ross.
After the groups initial gathering, they scatter all around the 14 acre campus to pick up trash and collect recycling. One student lingers to share why he is part of the green team. “When I took the permission slip home to my mom, she said, ‘Why do you want to do this? You won’t get anything out of this.’ I told her, ‘Yes, I will. I’ll be helping my school.”