Little Chico Creek students set out to teach rules of recycling – Chico Enterprise-Record


CHICO — Kristen Thomas’ classroom is on a mission: To reduce plastic water bottle waste and encourage their classmates to participate in a recycling program that will far outlive the fourth and fifth graders’ tenure at Little Chico Creek Elementary School.

The class is participating in California Water Service’s H2O Challenge, which is a free competition that invites fourth through sixth grade classrooms in Cal Water service areas to develop and implement solutions for various water issues.

“To date, more than 250 classrooms have participated in the program,” said the company on its website, and this year, Cal Water has expanded the elementary student competition to include K-12 student and teacher participation. The program corresponds to school standards for reading, vocabulary, research, writing, oral-speaking, science, social studies and math, according to the Cal Water website.

Thomas said she went into the project with some potential ideas, but her fourth- and fifth-grade students were very firm in what they wanted to accomplish. “The kids united to make plastic recycling their goal,” she said.

Tianna Atkins, a student in Thomas’ class, said their main goal was to reduce plastic water bottle usage, so the students split up into teams that could each accomplish that goal in different ways: There is a recycling team, a reusables team, a creek cleanup team and the water tester team.

The students even went through all the trash in the dumpsters behind the cafeteria after lunch to pull out recyclable and plastic items, and did an “eco audit” on the school’s classroom taps and water fountains.

“We went to different classrooms and tested to see if there was any lead, bacteria or chemicals,” said Adrian Morales, who showed off the bright purple samples of tested water. (Purple is good — if the samples had turned yellow, Adrian said, that would have meant the school’s water was unsafe to drink.)

Since there was already a class on campus which did some recycling work, the two classes joined forces to implement a much wider program. And Natalie Wood-Toussau, who said she hopes to become a teacher one day, is helping Thomas build a lesson plan for their fellow classes to follow and learn about recycling.

“We thought we could make a difference at least in our community,” said Kazi Ferdous.

During the class’ clean up of Little Chico Creek, they found more than 119 pounds of waste, including a large section of carpet, discarded clothing and tons of — you guessed it — plastic.

“It’s good to reduce plastic because it goes into the ocean and the fish can eat the plastic,” said Adrian. “And Ms. Thomas says fish eat fish, and we eat the fish and the plastic can get into us, too.”

“It can move up the food chain to us!” chimed in Abigail Powers, another student.

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