More than a dozen public schools in the city will receive a pick-me-up of an entirely different sort, thanks to a campaign by Keep Philadelphia Beautiful.
The non-profit organization has declared 14 schools as “Litter Free Zones,” with Woodrow Wilson Middle School, Bregy Elementary and Saul High School among the schools to celebrate the program last week.
Mayfair Elementary School, St. Peters School, Penrose Elementary School, Thurgood Marshall School, Sharswood Elementary School, Alcorn Elementary School, Martha Washington School, Germantown Settlement Music School, Chester Arthur School, Alexander Wilson School and FACTS Charter School round out the list of schools participating in the anti-litter campaign.
“This is our fifth year doing litter-free school zones; we’re trying to teach environmental stewardship and peer mentors about the effects of littering,” said Keep Philadelphia Beautiful spokeswoman Phoebe Coles. “It is school driven, and we start out by doing presentations with the students about the impact of littering, using disposable products and the trash they produce every day.
“Then we charge the ambassadors in the schools to talk about the issues and come back with a service plan on what they would like to do.” According to Coles, that plan could be anything from cleaning up a playground to installing a garden or greenhouse at the respective schools.
No matter what project the students come up with, Keep Philadelphia Beautiful will support it, Coles said.
“We support all of their efforts, once they get through the first part and the recruiting,” Coles said. “Some schools might decide to have all third graders do something, and other may have just one class take these projects on.”
The schools participating weren’t hand-picked by KPB, Coles said; rather, these are the schools that showed a certain level of interest in the program, and if other schools and teachers are interested, all they have to do is reach out to KPB.
“We actually offered [anti-littering programming] to any school that wanted to do it. It’s a free program; we go in with whatever resources they may need, do presentations, get supplies and set them up,” Coles said. “The projects can go for six months or longer, so we try to enroll schools early so they can get the educational information to their students.
It’s really all about the schools having teacher-leaders to execute the project.”
According to a release from KPB, the litter-free zone is a learning project that raises waste management awareness and promotes a “reduce, recycle and reuse” lifestyle. Its programming includes citywide, daylong cleanup efforts; educational trips to waste management and recycling plants and natural trail restorations.
KPB gains most of its traction though its educational efforts, which is why reaching students at a critical age is paramount.
“The kids love it. You should see cleanup day; you’d think [the kids] would be so down, but get them in the school yard on a sunny day, and next thing you know, they’re fighting over trash and telling each other which items should go in the recycling bin,” Coles said. “[Younger students] seem to have more energy around the issue.
“We have great leadership when it comes to remediation once it’s on the ground,” Coles continued. “But this is about getting through to the future generations. The impact on the future is right now; at ten years’ old, you know if you can throw your trash on the ground or not.”