The pseudo-pillow fight that preceded a joyfully discordant orchestra of sustainability offered Stacy Flanagan’s sixth-graders at the Pine Strawberry School the chance to learn a little science while shucking and jiving.
First, they recycled plastic bags.
A line of sixth-graders stretched from the pile of 60-gallon plastic bags, filled with smaller plastic shopping bags, to the van where Flanagan would later drive the collection to Walmart in Payson for recycling.
Students passed the larger bags to each other, down the line, until the large bags reached the van.
They tossed the bags in the air, and threw them at each other, while somehow making rapid progress.
Soon, the van filled with bags that people have dropped off instead of throwing away.
Then came the cans.
Students ripped open large, plastic, can-filled bags. They stomped on them, and every jangle of a crush will eventually result in the cha-ching of change.
Crushed cans fetch a higher going rate than non-crushed cans, not to mention the greater ease of transport, Flanagan said.
“It also gets them to exercise,” she joked.
Flanagan has traditionally taken the bags to Phoenix or Rye. Phoenix pays more, but rising gas prices have neutralized any extra profit there. Now, Flanagan drives the cans to Rye.
At one point, several students grabbed onto a bag’s closing knot all together, the tug-of-war’s aim to open the stubborn plastic. At last it did, to squeals and shrieks. Unleashed cans fell to the ground, with feet exuberantly stomping on them almost immediately.
“I told the kids before we were crushing cans, but they always wear their nice shoes,” Flanagan said.
Can recycling at the Pine school began many years ago. This is the second year, however, of plastic bag recycling.
“It helps out the community and makes it a cleaner place,” Flanagan said.
She might soon have the students make paper-recycling receptacles out of cardboard boxes, with a dash of paint for aesthetics.
“We don’t get any money for it, but it’s just good for the area,” Flanagan said.
Money earned from recycling plastic and cans helps pay for sixth-graders to attend Camp Colton in Flagstaff each May for four days. The environmental education camp is specifically designed for sixth-graders. Credit for Kids funds also help pay for the experience.
“I think it’s a lot of fun, but it also stinks. It smells really bad,” said Alex DeHart about recycling.
“Recycling can help the environment, and if we don’t recycle, we’ll probably pollute the ocean and other stuff,” she added.
“I really like it,” said Emma Greenleaf.
“I would like everybody’s school to be doing this.”