MARQUETTE - Every Thursday, students from Kristy Gollackner's eighth grade exploratory science class at Gwinn Middle School pick up recycling bins from around their school filled with paper and cardboard. These bins, which the students built and decorated themselves are placed around the school collect recyclables from their fellow students and are eventually shipped off to facilities in different states.
The students are all for the process.
"I just like that we're conserving resources," Michael Willig said. "I think that we need more places to recycle because only 15 percent of paper is recycled right now."
Eighth graders Casey Vadnais, Tiana Brown and Terra Soetaert hang up a poster above one of the recycling boxes at Gwinn Middle School. The students made the posters to educate their fellow students about what can be recycled in the constructed boxes. (Journal photo by Claire Abent)
Two grants helped fund the construction of recycling boxes by the students, which are now in place in various locations around the school. (Journal photo by Claire Abent)
Although the recycling program began a few years ago, this year it received two grants to help make expand and make it more successful: an Excellence in Education grant for $500 and a Lowe's Toolbox for Education grant for $2400.
The grants paid for the materials for the recycling boxes, as well as the curriculum to help the students further their knowledge of recycling.
The students built all the boxes used for recycling paper, plastic and returnables.
"When we made the the recycling bins, it was kind of hard because we got to use power tools. And we're girls, so we don't usually get to use power tools."
- Erin Reetz, student
"It was fun because we got to build stuff," Willig said.
Some of the other students really enjoyed that the project allowed them to use power tools.
"When we made the the recycling bins, it was kind of hard because we got to use power tools," Erin Reetz said. "And we're girls, so we don't usually get to use power tools."
The exploratory class is a science class that the students choose to take as an elective, in addition to the earth science class that they are required to take.
But it isn't just about picking up recycling, there is a large learning component involved as well. Throughout the school year the students are studying how recycling works with each different type of material.
"They've studied and learned how paper is recycled and now they have moved on to plastic," Gollackner said.
They even made their own recycled paper to experience it first hand.
"When you recycle paper it goes through a long process of pulping the paper, flattening it and then letting it dry," student Erin Reetz said.
Currently, the students are working on spreading their knowledge to the rest of their school by creating posters on what can and can't be recycled in the boxes. They taped up the posters above the boxes to make sure the right things are recycled.
Throughout the next few weeks, the the students will learn about metal recycling and eventually finish by taking a look at the materials used in their own cafeteria. This examination will challenge the students to come with cost-effective, more environmentally friendly alternatives for trays and utensils.
"They're doing their part to live more earth friendly," Gollackner said.
The paper from the recycling goes to a local church, where it is then sold to the Manistique Paper Mill. The cardboard is taken to the township, where it is bound and sold to a company in Green Bay for recycling. The plastics also go to the township, then are sold to a company in Minnesota for recycling.
The class also collects returnables with deposit. The plastic containers are not collected during the school day because often they require washing and it would cut too far into classtime. Those containers are collected by student volunteers after school.
The students now have also teamed up with the high school shop class to build recycling boxes to place around the high school.
Claire Abent can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.