Sixth graders at the School for Agricultural and Environmental Studies (SAGES) are working to make big environmental changes. After reading how plastic bags are threatening our oceans and sea life and filling our landfills, this class of 15 was introduced to the “Trex: Plastic Bag Challenge,” a six-month competition among schools across the country to collect the most plastic bags and other types of polyethylene for a chance to win an outdoor composite Trex bench made from unwanted plastic materials.
With a strong desire to help animals and the environment, plus the thrill of friendly competition, SAGES’ sixth graders accepted the challenge and encouraged students and families school-wide to begin collecting plastic materials such as grocery bags, bread bags, case overwrap, dry cleaning bags, newspaper sleeves, ice bags, wood pellet bags, ziploc & other re-sealable bags, produce bags, bubble wrap, salt bags, and cereal bags. In the first month of the challenge, SAGES’ collected 103 pounds!
Plastics collected from all SAGES’ classes, kindergarten through 8th grade, are bagged, weighed, and recorded monthly by a student receiving & processing team, while three other student teams were in charge of education, outreach, and communication. The outreach team took on the task of finding a local retailer who participated in Trex’s Recycling Program and would be willing to partner with the school to receive plastics collected. That meant a phone call to Waupun Piggly Wiggly’s Store Owner, Marty Koehler. Along with developing a script of questions, students discussed different scenarios and phone etiquette prior to making the call. What a thrill for these 11 year-olds when Mr. Koehler agreed to collect and transport the school’s plastics to his store’s warehouse where they would bale the plastics and transport them to TREX. Fulfilling his request to place a plastic bag collection bin at his store was an added bonus from the calls made.
On December 16, SAGES’ students visited the Waupun Piggly Wiggly to deliver SAGES’ first months’ plastics, thank the store owners, place the plastic bag collection bin, and take a behind the scenes tour.
SAGES’ students are hoping to involve the whole Waupun and Fox Lake community by inviting families to save their clean and dry plastic bags. Families can drop off at SAGES Charter School, 200 S. Depot Street in Fox Lake or at the Waupun Piggly Wiggly store. There is a TREX box that says “Recycle Plastic BAGS and Film Here” in the front entrance of both the store and school.
Beyond learning about recycling plastics, the “Plastic Bag Challenge” has inspired SAGES’ students to explore ways to reduce the amount of plastic used in the first place and unique ways to repurpose it. Plus, this project incorporates reading, writing, math, science, and social studies into a real world experience. To learn more about this project or the SAGES School, visit them online at www.waupun.k12.wi.us/sages