This week, The New Century School elementary students had a very special visitor. Councilman Jim Kraft spoke to Ms. DuPrau’s and Ms. Roberts’s classes on December 16th and presented them with an official award as winners of the Southeast School’s 2013 Recycling Competition. Councilman Kraft was accompanied by Emily Sherman, a member of his City Hall office and a Shriver Peaceworker Fellow, and Robert Murrow, Baltimore City’s Recycling Coordinator (known to the kids as “Mr. Bob”). Ms. Sherman said that the contest’s goal is to “get students more aware of the impact of their recycling and also more aware of what can be recycled.” Surprisingly, many people still don’t know how easy—and how beneficial—it is to recycle, she reports.
Head of School Alicia Danyali began the presentation by asking students why recycling is important. Lots of kids gave great responses, but one boy’s answer, “So we don’t pollute the world,” kind of hit the nail on the head and is why the Councilman’s office targets schools. “We get to them while they’re young to instill healthy behavior, says Ms. Sherman. After a few more pithy yet adorable student responses, Ms. Danyali turned the floor over to the visitors.
It’s safe to say that Councilman Kraft really understood his audience. Dressed in Christmas-y hues with a holiday-patterned tie, he began by addressing the elephant in the room: “You guys don’t really want to hear what I have to say—you want to talk about Santa, don’t you?” Once the laughter and cheering subsided, Councilman Kraft had the audience in his palm. Well known for his pro-environment platform, Councilman Kraft has been holding this recycling contest for several years among his other green initiatives. (This was TNCS’s first year participating, but even as rookies, we held our own.)
In fact, says Ms. Sherman, this year’s contest had the most participants to date. Going up against nine other areas schools, TNCS elementary students gathered recycling around the school into brown bags and reported to Ms. Danyali on a weekly basis, who, in turn, called City Hill with the week’s tally. She dubbed them her “Recycling Ambassadors,” and they competed not only against exponentially larger schools (with up to 700 students), but also against other students as old as age 18 years. (Note: Totals were assessed per capita rather than schoolwide to level the playing field for smaller schools such as TNCS.)
In their presentation, Councilman Kraft and “Mr. Bob” once again tapped into the kids’ seasonal excitement. “Santa Claus is the world’s biggest recycler,” said Mr. Bob. “We’re in constant contact,” he continued, “and we send out press releases to let everyone know that Christmas is a great time to recycle.” Wrapping paper, old electronics, styrofoam packing, cardboard, etc. can all be recycled, and it’s very important to remember to do so. Mr. Bob finished by asking the first-place winners to give themselves a big hand.
In addition to presenting a very official-looking certificate, Councilman Kraft also promised to donate several copies of The Lorax to TNCS’s library (the lorax also being very pro-environment—“[He] speaks for the trees.”). Best of all, the kids win a field trip to the Baltimore Aquarium plus lunch in early 2014.
As the City Hall delegation wound down their presentation, the kids had questions. Lots of questions. Including these directed to Mr. Bob: “Are you an elf? Will you show us your ears?” He was wearing green pants, after all. In all seriousness, though, Mr. Bob has helped make recycling a snap in Baltimore, which uses a single-stream method and requires no separating of recyclables into constituent materials.
TNCS elementary students have shown our community not only that recycling is so easy that anyone can do it but also that TNCS and Councilman Kraft fully support such environmentally sustaining practices. “TNCS was green to begin with,” said Ms. Sherman, “so this was icing on the cake!”
Update: On February 21st, the elementary students got their reward trip. See the delights!