Students mark Earth Day with litterless lunch

Erin McCabe
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Morgan MacLean, left, and Ava Frew, Grade 2 students at Central Queens school in Hunter River, have learned how to sort garbage as part of an Earth Day project. Today is being celebrated as Earth Day.

HUNTER RIVER — You’re never too young to start learning about the environment.

Marcella Thompson says in the lead-up to Earth Day, her Grade 2 students watched movies and read books teaching them about the effects their garbage has on the natural world.

“At the beginning of the year, we talk a lot about our garbage and where each (piece of) garbage goes,” said Thompson.

Thompson’s Grade 2 classroom at Central Queens school has four bins at the front of the room: one each for compost, waste, recyclables and paper. On the side of the bins is clearly marked in big letters what should go where.

Near the back of the classroom is a table covered with books about garbage and the environment.

Her students enjoy learning about the environment and especially like watching the Earth Day movies.

“There is some silly ones,” says student Madison Crabb, “One with a talking Earth.”

The Grade 2 students are excited to take part in a “litterless lunch” today to celebrate Earth Day.

“I like the idea,” says Owen Longuepee, another student.

Thompson started the litterless lunch challenge about 10 years ago. She takes the waste bin out of the classroom for the day and the goal is to accumulate no more than five pieces of garbage from the entire class.

“The challenge is if they get less than five pieces of garbage, we’ll have a little celebration,” says Thompson.

She says the class gets to pick what they’d like to do for a reward, although usually it ends up being an ice cream party.

The other Grade 2 class at Central Queens also participates in the litterless lunch.

Thompson says she tries to teach her students about the balance in nature.

“We’re all a balanced part of the environment,” she says. “A lot of what we throw out affects the birds or affects the worms. That shiny chip bag at the beach can affect the puffins, who don’t like the rattling and the noise, so they don’t have the babies — it’s all kind of related.”

Even the local waste management system gets brought up, says Thompson.

“We talk a lot about the dump and garbage because it’s right up the road, and a lot of people’s parents work there, so we try to tie that in.”

All this knowledge seems to be sinking in for the students.

“We learned that garbage takes 150 years to break down into the ground,” say Owen and Madison.

Thompson says what wasn’t important 10 years ago is becoming more and more so every year.

“It’s just all a snowball effect,” she says.

“One thing affects the other in the bigger part of life and I think it’s important.”

Organizations: Grade 2, Central Queens school

Geographic location: HUNTER RIVER

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