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First-Graders Work to Reduce Waste at Captain

Captain Elementary students in Cathy Chamberlin’s first-grade class are following their teacher’s example by working this year to reduce the amount of waste produced in their school. Chamberlin is a member of the Earthways Sustainability Network, which is a group of educators dedicated to learning more about waste, waste reduction and recycling in their schools.


To pass along this learning to her students, Chamberlin has designed a project-based learning investigation of the waste found in the first- and fourth-grade classrooms at Captain. The project began on Thursday, Oct. 3, when Chamberlin’s first-graders conducted a trash audit with help from Earthways education advisers in the school’s Outdoor Learning Space.


Using a collection of the trash from the first- and fourth-grade classrooms on Oct. 2, the students sorted the trash into six buckets: metals, paper, hard plastics, other plastics, food waste and other. The Earthways staff then weighed each bucket and announced that without the first-graders’ trash audit, the school would have thrown away more than 6 pounds of paper that day - the heaviest bucket.


Following the audit, Chamberlin and her students discussed ways to reduce the amount of waste produced by teachers and students throughout the school. They will develop a project this school year that will help teach their school about the importance of reducing waste, recycling and composting.


In the spring, the first-graders will complete a second trash audit to see if their efforts have made a difference in the amount of waste produced in their school.