Thursday, May 9, 2013

When things don't go right ....

May 9 – Today we met with Rich Haag from the Catawba River District to talk about why our project is not getting the results we hoped for. He said we may have learned some great lessons.

Read the sign!
Our advisor, Ms. Smith, had invited Mr. Haag to meet with us. He is a former Charlotte Observer reporter and editor who also ran several magazines before moving into websites, e-newsletters and on-line video. Mr. Haag said that our project has been a success even though we may think it is not. The Catawba River District and Piedmont Natural Gas Foundation launched the Eco-Footprint Challenge to get kids thinking, he said, and we are thinking a lot - maybe more than if we had felt successful.
We talked about our expectations when we created the project to reduce plastic in our lunch waste - to reduce the waste and get kids to use containers they can use over and over again.
We also talked about how we delivered that message to other students at Mountain Island Charter School. We made a 4-minute presentation on the Friday before spring break at our weekly school assembly. On a big orange sheet we had mounted many pieces of plastic that we had pulled from the school waste cans. We asked everyone to start using containers that they could use several times.
But it didn't work. We have been counting the plastic items in our garbage cans for several weeks now, and there has been no change.
In our discussion, we realized that parents, not students, pack most of our lunches. What if we could get parents to use containers rather than disposable plastic bags and bottles?
We also talked about how there is no real excitement about recycling. What if we had some sort of competition, like having a big basketball hoop over a recycling bin and having kids toss plastic trash through that? Or maybe we could make big mounds of plastic trash from each grade and see who had the biggest (and smallest) mounds of plastic.
After the meeting we took Mr. Haag to Building 100 to show him something we have already done - put up new posters to ask other students to recycle. He took photos of our signs next to the water fountain, on the hallway wall, in our art classroom where everyone hangs out, and, of course, above the urinals and sinks in the boys' bathrooms!
Next Tuesday we will make a final presentation of our project to a judge for the Eco-Footprint Challenge. Mr. Haag said that we should be proud of our "failures" and show how we are learning from them. The Eco-Footprint Challenge may sound like it is about helping our school be kinder to the environment, he said, but the real goal is to help us think more – and he said we have been doing some great thinking!

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