Trash pickup becomes class project in Sterling

Spring cleaning

Posted: Wednesday, May 15, 2002

A group of Sterling Elementary School students got a chance to spend an entire morning tromping through ditches and playing with trash. By the time they were done, all that was left was a nice, clean roadside.

Children from Teri Hoffman's fifth- and sixth-grade class spent about two hours Tuesday morning picking up trash along 10 miles of Swanson River Road. Teams of four or five students and one adult were dropped at 1.7-mile intervals along the road, starting at the boundary to the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. In all, the fourth- and fifth-graders managed to clean 10.2 miles of road, all the way to the Swanson River.

Hoffman said the event reinforces some of the lessons she gives in the classroom.

"In my class, we do a lot of outdoor education. After they do this they'll think twice about throwing something out the window," she said.

As the class began walking the ditches along the road, fifth-grader Robert Skuse voiced his mixed emotions about the special field trip.

"We're missing school, but we still have to pick up garbage," he grumbled as his group began walking.

About five minutes later, though, Robert seemed more enthusiastic about the opportunity.

"Hey, I found a license plate!" he called to the others in his group, while busily scraping the dirt off a slightly rusted California plate.

Then he ran off to show his classmates what he'd found.

Robert's partner, Elaina Mercier, wasn't so enthusiastic about Robert's find.


Charlie Evans and Angeleah Wood launder trash from the side of Swanson River Road during a class cleanup project Tuesday morning.

Photo by M. SCOTT MOON

"Now I have to pick up everything that he misses," she sighed.

The class cleanup event was made possible by special funding from Unocal Oil and Gas Company. Unocal produces oil and gas in the Swanson River area. The company also gave the class money for a field trip across Kachemak Bay earlier in the year.

Greg Merle, a lead operator in the Swanson River field, volunteered to help direct traffic along the road. He said the cleanup day offers Unocal a chance to give back to the community.

"A lot of people that work out here at Swanson River, we like to recreate out here, too. It's a good way Unocal can give back to the community," he said. "We have a commitment to the community, and it's a nice way to positively affect kids."

After hiking 1.7 miles and filling up piles of trash bags, the kids took a much needed break at Dolly Varden Lake. After all, the whole point of the cleanup was to make the outdoors more enjoyable. Hoffman said she was thrilled with how the event turned out.

"What a great day to be outside picking up trash," she said.

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