Kids recycle for Siemens Challenge | ParkRecord.com

Kids recycle for Siemens Challenge

Megan Yeiter , The Park Record

Parley’s Park Elementary School received $3,000 from the 2012 Siemens "We Can Change the World" Challenge. About 27,000 students participated in the challenge this year, including 50 students from Parley’s Park Spanish dual-immersion program, who won second place.

Second-grade teachers Jose Ardanaz and Stacey Harris decided to get involved in the challenge earlier this year. Harris said each student received a $50 gift card for Discovery Education merchandise, and the teachers get a video camera and a one-year membership to the National Science Teachers Association.

Harris entered into the premier national environmental sustainability category for students in kindergarten through 12th-grade and the students started getting involved in "Recycling in the Cafeteria," a program the school implemented earlier this year. The students voted to be called "Team Earth Lovers" for the Challenge, and eventually, this turned into a school-wide initiative and more students joined the Junior Green Team.

The Recycling in the Cafeteria program started in order to reduce the amount of waste being thrown away during lunch. The school was able to reduce its lunchtime waste by 300 pounds, according to Parley’s Park Green Team Leader Tania McIntyre, who said the program teaches students how to recycle.

McIntyre said Whole Foods donated recycling bins to the school so they could start the project and then Ardanaz and Harris decided to piggy-back off the recycling program for the Siemens Challenge.

"It became clear that this could be a challenge that second graders could do and then teach the older kids as well," Harris said. "We had language learners and special-ed kids. They can all get a hands-on experience and they can all feel good about it. We will carry this on and hopefully it will be a part of our school culture."

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A key component to the recycling program and receiving money from the Challenge is the parent volunteers, according to McIntyre who said the program wouldn’t have been that successful without the parents and the kids. She said Curb-It Recycling Director Shirin Spangenberg also came to the school and showed students what to separate into each bin and Parley’s Park custodians helped organize the bins in the cafeteria.

"This is teaching students recycling but its teaching them life lessons. They are learning at a young age that this is normal and this is going to be a part of their every day life," she said. "We’ve touched every student, and everyone can recycle and the kids felt like they were finally needed and making a difference. These kids are learning to take responsibility."