Students understand value of 'trash'

When Nia Calvert saw her peers recycling throughout the Kaleidoscope School of Arts and Sciences, the third-grader took it to heart. She went home and told her family about recycling. She even provided visuals to prove her point.


"I made a little sign for the trash can and then I started picking from the trash all the things that we can recycle," Calvert said. "It makes me feel good, just knowing that we can recycle."

The student-led recycling program at Kaleidoscope started last year under the direction of the student council. Now there are recycling bins for each classroom. Kids weigh the materials once a day and then Gerri Litzenberger, a parent volunteer, drives the materials to the recycle area of the landfill.

"All I have to do is pick up," Litzenberger said. "I used to have to do all the leg work, but these kids have it all ready for me to go every morning."

Above the central recycling location, there is a graph on the wall that shows how much recyclables have been collected throughout the school year. In August, 800 pounds were collected, and by February, that number grew to 2,737 pounds. The numbers for March are still being calculated. 

Each of the eight students tending to the recyclables Wednesday said they get a good feeling from recycling.

"I feel good because I'm helping the Earth," sixth-grader Rylie Fields said.

Fourth-grader Anna Shelden agreed with Fields.

"I think it's just fun, it helps the environment and the Earth," she said.

For the kids, they may be acting locally, but they're thinking on a much bigger scale.

"Just knowing that you're helping the environment makes me feel like I'm doing a big part," Travis Verkuilen, a fourth-grader said.  

Kailey Hamilton, also a fourth-grader, expressed what her favorite part about recycling is.

"I get to help out with recycling, a lot of people aren't really recycling because they don't think it's a very big thing," Hamilton said.

For fourth-grader Hudson Jackson, recycling is fun because it's easy.
"It's easy to do and makes a big difference," he said.

The difference at Kaleidoscope is not only in the way the students see every-day materials, but that the recycling program is saving the school money as well. The school's administrator, Robin Dahlman, said the school was able to save about $1,300 this year.

"That's the figure for last year based on the difference in the amount of trash can space that we used versus what we needed as of last year," Dahlman explained. 

That savings goes directly back into the school.

"That is regenerated funding that goes back to the students and the school," Dahlman said.

Dahlman said the recycling program is showing the students a unique aspect while they're still in school.

"Kids here are really learning to demonstrate citizenship and be a part of their community," she said. "They understand the value of what impacts, not only the environment, but savings and the bigger picture that some times in school maybe kids don't have the opportunity to learn or experience." 

For Lemonade Day in May, fourth-graders Chase Keating and Hudson Jackson are planning to use recyclable materials for their stand. The materials are three times the cost of non-recyclable materials, but for them, it's worth it.

"So there's not trash all over the place, normally they just drink the lemonade and then throw it on the streets," Jackson said.

Keating said being able to recycle their cups will put less of a burden on the trash cans around town.

"If you throw it away, the dumpsters will be filled up and nothing will go in the recycle bins," Keating said.

Starting the process is easy, Verkuilen said.

"You can start by picking up around your community, have a whole bunch of people help out with you and move on from there," he said.

Logan Tuttle can be reached at