Monday, October 26, 2009

Students’ Hard Work
Educates Community About Recycling

“At first nobody took us as serious, but later they started noticing that we meant business and they started helping the community.”

Those words, penned by students Gustavo Garcia and Juan Castillo, sum up the efforts of Purdy, Missouri, students who helped establish the Purdy School & Community Recycling Center. Begun by members of Purdy High School’s Spanish Club (pictured) who were tired of ‘do-nothing clubs,’ the Purdy Recycling Project, which aimed to raise the environmental consciousness of their peers, has become a community-wide program that is turning a profit, raising scholarship money for students, and serving as a model for similar programs in other communities.

“The biggest surprise for me has been how exciting, how much fun it has been to watch this project grow and, hand in hand with that, how rewarding it has been to see my students grow with it,” says Gerry Wass, a world languages teacher and Spanish Club advisor at Purdy High School. “Their dedication and willingness to take over more and more of it defies assumptions we too often make about modern kids.”


Along the way to building a successful operation that is turning a profit -- in spite of economic challenges -- students and adults alike have learned many valuable lessons.
  • They’ve learned that students can have their greatest impact when they serve as a source of clear and useful information, such as the handout they created to teach their community how to recycle.
  • They’ve learned that students readily take on the role of community educators as they expertly answer adults’ questions about recycling.
  • They’ve learned that students can easily overcome the “yuck factor” when they are doing good work with friends while building a business from scratch -- even if most of the work is done on Saturday mornings.
  • They’ve learned that girls work just as hard as boys, and sometimes harder.
  • They’ve learned that you don’t have to be a fantastic writer to get a grant. You need a good, workable idea that will harness the amazing energy of kids.
  • They’ve learned that involving younger students early is an important way to ensure the sustainability of a program.
  • They’ve learned that “graduates” of the program will form an “alumni association” that can make a program sustainable long into the future.


    Against all odds -- the Purdy program has been successful by almost every measure. And that is unusual. Most school programs fail, says Gerry Wass. But they don’t fail because of the students, as one might think. Instead, they fail because they were not carefully planned.

    “No recycling program will sustain student enthusiasm for a volunteer program that doesn’t operate as a successful business,” said Wass. “The student members of the Purdy Recycling Project have earned the pride of ownership.”

    Wass would like to see Purdy, Missouri, become one of the most skillful recycling communities in the nation. “We’d like to see our program set an example for many other towns both large and small that see a school as a potential powerhouse of creative energy that serves as a seed from which a powerful program grows,” he said.

    To that end, the project has published Bringing It Back Around: The Story of the Purdy Recycling Project. This 60-page, step-by-step manual aims to assist other school systems in developing a business model for creating a recycling center. The book supplies a wide range of fascinating insider details that will help other schools as they motivate student interest, seek out grant sources, get community members involved, and create a sustainable recycling operation that can benefit everyone.


    For more information, go to the club’s Web site, The Purdy Recycling Project. There you can learn more about the project, visit the project’s photo gallery, or purchase one of a limited number of copies of the Bringing It Back Around: The Story of the Purdy Recycling Project book.
  • 1 comment:

    1. This is a great blog, very well done. It's nice to find blogs that are specific to our jobs and not just educators in general. I think you might get a kick out of a book I wrote: