While plastic continues to pile up in our landfills, Springside Chestnut Hill Academy’s fourth-grade students are fighting plastic pollution.
While plastic continues to pile up in our landfills, Springside Chestnut Hill Academy’s fourth-grade students are fighting plastic pollution as part of the school’s Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership (CEL) curriculum.
Their mission, through two core projects, is to reduce the number of single-use plastics that accumulate from the lunches they bring to school every day.
Single-use plastics such as plastic bags, straws, water bottles, chip bags, candy wrappers, and plastic cutlery are designed to be used only once and then immediately discarded, creating a growing problem in our landfills.
After conducting a survey to collect data about the fourth grade’s plastic use habits, students discovered that 56 fourth graders were collectively bringing more than 100 pieces of single-use plastic to school every day.
Eager to take action, the students designed icons for waste management, which they made on the vinyl cutter in the school’s Maker Space. The icons serve as a visual reminder in the Lower School Cafeteria to sort trash, recyclables, and compost correctly.
After outfitting the lunchroom’s waste stations, students turned their attention to reducing plastic in their own lunch bags, and learned how to measure, cut fabric pattern pieces, and machine sew a reusable sandwich/snack wrap. Made out of colorful, fun food-safe fabric, the wraps are a perfect sustainable alternative to Ziploc bags or Saran Wrap.
Upon finishing both projects, the students' work has culminated in a 100% single-use plastic-free lunch.
"Students – most of them having never used a sewing machine before – mentioned feelings of pride and accomplishment during our reflective discussion,” said CEL teacher Tess Ramsey. “They were also very happy to report that ‘Cleanup has never been easier,’” Ramsey said. “Taking direct action was very rewarding for my class, and I hope their experience will also encourage others to reduce their plastic waste."