Environment issues at forefront for one Northborough teacher
Northborough - When third-grade teacher Jessica Halford combined her love for children with her passion for the environment and created "The Green Team" at Marion E. Zeh Elementary School in Northborough, she had no idea the group would go on to win awards from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection for the next consecutive five years.
Her group has consistently been awarded the title of Environmental Eagles, which recognizes students who have pledged to reduce, reuse and recycle at home or in school, students who have shared their knowledge of the "Three R's" with others, and those who have participated in outside environmental events, such as area trash clean-up events.
"It really got students to take an active role in the environment and really start taking care of it," Halford said about the Green Team program. "At this age, they've heard the words reduce, reuse and recycle, but they don't necessarily know what they mean. By the end of the program they understand the words and know how to apply them."
Halford spreads the Green Team curriculum out over several months, but said the idea of recycling is one that exists in the classroom yearround.
Because environmental issues can be abstract at times and hard for children to understand, Halford said, she incorporates many activities where children are given concrete evidence of the eff ect of reducing, reusing and recycling.
"Each year we have a wastefree day where the children bring in only items that can be reused like lunchboxes, thermoses, handkerchiefs and towels," she said. "Then we weigh the trash that day and compare to the trash from the day before to show them the significant diff erence."
Halford said the environmental lessons carry over into all subject matters, varying from discussions about the amount of waste created during the Industrial Revolution to whose snack at recess has the most environmentally friendly packaging.
More than anything, Halford said, she wants her students to realize that even though the issues facing the environment are very large, each individual student can be a part of the solution in their own way.
"Nothing is going to happen unless you take charge and do something yourself," she said. "I want them to be able to see that if they try their best and work their hardest to make the best effort they can, then they can make a diff erence."
Halford's students read books, make posters, participate in classroom plastic and paper recycling, track their household trash levels, and have daily discussions about the importance of being environmentally friendly both now and in the future.
"I'm trying to teach them that things are changing now and it's going to impact their lives and their children's lives," she said. "I tell them, 'This is happening to you and your world, so what are you going to do about it?'"
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