February 8, 2017

JW Green Team Kicks off Recycling, Teaches the Teachers and Peers Too

GOING GREEN ATJW: Green Team members show off their new plan for recycling and composting at John Witherspoon Middle School. The students presented the program to their teachers at a faculty meeting on Monday and will bring their peers on board in homerooms this Friday.

A group of seventh and eight graders, members of the John Witherspoon Middle School (JW) Green Team, are moving into high gear this week, first teaching their teachers about recycling and composting, then bringing their training to the whole school in homerooms on Friday.

As part of the district’s sustainability initiatives, eventually leading to certification by Sustainable Jersey for Schools, the Green Team students presented their plan to the JW faculty on Monday, with an initial focus on the cafeteria. They look forward to seeing the program grow and become a model for other schools as more students get involved.

“It’s really important that in the future we have a world that can sustain us,” said eighth grade Team member Sophia Huellstrunk. “By composting and recycling we’re making a small difference, but eventually it’s going to help lots of schools be more eco-friendly and hopefully make the planet better for us in the future.”

Noting “piles of trash” at JW, Sanyukta Mudakannavar, also an eighth grade Team member, stated, “I see kids in the cafeteria dumping food that could be used as compost, so I think it’s a great thing that we can raise awareness.”

As the Green Team representatives introduced the new recycling and composting protocol, they explained their color-coded system, with stations for liquids, recyclables, compost, and trash. Their presentations in homerooms Friday will also include a video, Why Recycling is Important.

The students reminded their teachers — “What can you do?” “Think about what you’re doing.” “Think before you toss.” “Simple changes = huge differences” — as Principal Jason Burr pointed out, “The students are going to lead the way. They’re taking responsibility for this initiative.”

Advised by Janet Gaudino, 8th grade physical science teacher, and Priscilla Hayes, garden coordinator and environmental consultant, the Green Team thrives on the student-centered aspect of the program and they clearly understand the importance of their efforts.

“I’m really into animals and helping wildlife,” added eighth grader Olivia Benevento, “so I think it’s really important for our generation and future generations that we keep a healthy environment. What starts out with a small impact will become a bigger one if we’re role models.”

Pointing out the interweaving of food science, garden education, and the science curriculum, Princeton Schools science supervisor Ed Cohen stated, “It’s exciting that it comes from the students and that we have a group of passionate students who want to teach their peers and teachers.” He further noted that Sustainable Jersey has supported the program with a $2000 grant for each school in the District and that additional funding for the garden educator at JW has come from Church and Dwight Co., Inc.

“It’s about having a world that’s livable for humans and wildlife too,” seventh grade Green Team member Andrew Kopacz reflected, “so being sustainable is really important. If we can get control of our trash, it can help us get a greener world.”