Students’ environmental activism makes an impact on their schools and city - #BetterSD

Posted: Thursday, April 11th 2019

Spreckels Elementary students have led efforts to reduce waste and clean up litter

Growing up in a coastal city renowned for its natural beauty, environmental awareness starts early for San Diego children. This spring, students as young as 5 are leading by example and inspiring others to follow their lead in keeping our city beautiful.

TK and Kindergarten students from Jerabek Elementary were recently spotted in Mission Beach leading a coastal clean-up effort, leaving a safer and cleaner beach for all to enjoy. The event was just one part of the new STEAM learning unit, “Human Impact,” which teaches the youngsters about the effects humans have on harming or helping their natural environment.

At Spreckels Elementary, this awareness began with the Trash Pick-Up club, started by a pair of second-grade girls who wanted to make their campus and surrounding area litter-free. This inspired dozens of fellow students to follow suit, and the entire school has now become a testament to the spirit of selfless service. “We have about 10 student-started and student-run clubs that help our school and promote a clean environment,” said Principal Michel Cazary. “Some of these, like our Leaf Pick-Up club, were even started by kindergarteners. Kids notice what they can improve, and they take it on directly and make it happen.”

Just last week, Spreckels third-grade student Amelie saw one such area for needed improvement: easier access to recycling, to encourage students and staff to recycle 100 percent of the time. Independently, she started a petition to get additional recycling bins in the lunch area, and led a speech at the school’s assembly to emphasize the importance of recycling.

At nearby Field Elementary, there’s a new feature appearing on the school’s paper towel dispensers: they all have handmade notes, created by a student, urging fellow classmates and staff to conserve. “Remember, paper towels come from trees,” writes Colton, the student behind the conservation campaign. “Be kind to trees!”

In City Heights, students in grades 3-7 from multiple schools learn about taking care of the environment at the new Living Lab at the Ocean Discovery Institute, which empowers students from diverse backgrounds through science-based exploration of the ocean and the urban environment. Built in partnership with the San Diego Unified School District and opened to the public in 2018, the Living Lab provides lab experiments, activities and leadership programs that highlight the importance of clean water and the recognition that trash in the community will eventually make its way to the ocean through San Diego’s vast system of watersheds. The Living Lab is built on the premise: “If I know how the world works, I can make a difference.” 

Ahead of Earth Day on April 22nd, dozens of other San Diego Unified schools will be holding assemblies, leading clean-up efforts in their communities, and encouraging students to think introspectively about the impact they can have on the environment. It’s up to them, and all of us, to make sure that impact will be a positive one.

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