My Voice My Community
Littering project energizes students

Students believe they are impacting the world

Lisa Hantman’s third grade class at McCall Elementary School considered plenty of issues for their service-learning project this year. Day care, bullying, abandoned houses, and blindness all made the list. But after several months of class discussions, the students settled on littering. “If we don’t stop it, the litter will be all over the place,” says Nana Huang.

After choosing their issue, the class met with Corri Gottesman from Delaware Valley Earth Force and Sue Cochrane from the Pennsylvania Resources Council to learn more about the impact that litter has on the environment. Esther Duink was surprised to learn how litter affects water quality, while Xin Li and Donald Cooper were most disturbed by litter’s impact on plants’ ability to grow. Even Ms. Hantman learned something. “I was surprised to find out it takes 200 years for a soda can to decompose,” she says.

After meeting with their community partners, the students decided to hold a symposium for other Philadelphia elementary school students about the hazards of litter. But first, they surveyed people in nearby Washington Square Park about their littering habits. “We walked up to a person in partner groups and asked them politely, ‘can you take a minute with us?’ I was nervous but I did it anyway, since it was for our project,” reports Lila Lin.

The class compiled their survey results and the research from their community partners to create their symposium. They invited 4th graders from nearby Meredith Elementary as well as other students from McCall to hear their presentation. In addition, they conducted several clean-ups at McCall and donated a trash can for the school yard.

In the end, the students were pleased with the results of their hard work. “We educated other people,” says Najah Abdul-Raqq. Donald Cooper adds proudly, “We tried to change the world and make it a better place.”

The students' project won an "Outstanding Project" award at Shout Out, Need in Deed's culminating celebration for students.