Every Wednesday, the 30 students in Wood Middle School's SLWRP class in Alameda grab their clipboards and head out in teams of six to their assigned hallways to empty classroom, office, and media center recycling bins. 15 minutes later, the recycling for the entire campus of nearly 600 students, has been processed and recorded, and the students are back in their seats to reflect on what they found.
Students report back which rooms were locked, how full the bins were, and discuss changes compared to past weeks. They note that Math and English classes are generating a lot of paper waste, but that the office is generating less one month in to the school year than at the start.
The SLWRP class is an Environmental Science elective for sixth graders that focuses on the health of the San Francisco Bay Watershed. In addition to managing campus recycling, the SLWRP class monitors the sources and impacts of litter at a nearby beach, helps monitor lunch time food scrap diversion, and more. Every 6th grader spends one trimester in the SLWRP class.
"Wednesdays are minimum days at Wood," explains teacher Jeannette Frechou, "the periods are too short to do a large lesson plan, but it works perfectly for running the recycling system." Just before class starts, Frechou sets out student created SLWRP nametags and clipboards starred with the day's team-leader at the top of the data collection chart. "The nametags and our green shirts help us build an identity for the students, they really feel like they belong to something. I rotate the leadership role to different team members each week so every student gets experience recording and reporting the data."
Out in the halls, students move quickly and quietly to their assigned classes. Each classroom is equipped with blue recycling bins co-located with garbage cans near the classroom door. Team members grab bins from classrooms and empty them into toters in the hallway that custodians take to the recycling dumpster at the end of the day. Each team member reports to the team leader the classroom number and an estimate of recycling volume in the bin -1/4, ½, ¾ or full.
"At Wood, we are trying to improve our Math skills and scores, so I built in a way for students to interact with fractions as part of this project," explains Frechou, "It also helps us collect important data about which classrooms on campus are doing a good job recycling- it also helps students identify and investigate patterns- why do English and Math classes have more paper than others? How come there is sometimes a lot of paper coming out of the media center? We can investigate these patterns to better understand our campus's use of resources as we look for ways to reduce our individual and collective impacts."