By Everette Bradford, Community Outreach Liaison
On Earth Day, April 22, 2013 more than 300 students at Forest Heights Elementary School took part in the 2nd Annual Potomac Cleanup and Earth day extravaganza. Students from Pre-k – 6th grade worked alongside each other to remove unsightly litter and debris from the school grounds and the local Oxon Run Creek. The day kicked off with students pledging to rethink. The school was covered in litter-prevention posters that highlighted the school’s motto and acronym for EARTH: Everyone Appreciates Re-thinkers, Think Humanity.
Mrs. Stephanie Jackson-Hinton serves as the school’s Green Team leader. She worked weeks prior to the event with the school’s Principal and faculty to schedule times for each class to come outside and participate. Each class had a one hour time slot to collect as many recyclables and litter as possible. The day was both educational and fun; students noted and discussed the harmful impacts of litter on Oxon Run Creek and their communities, and worked in teams competing in a school wide competition.
Before each class received their cleanup supplies, they were given safety instruction and quizzed and given safety instruction. Each class had to identify the types of materials that could be recycled or trashed. After the quizzing period, students were then tasked with breaking down into smaller teams. The teams consisted of those who would carry bags and those that would serve as the pickers. Students in Pre k- 2nd grade worked frantically to clean the schools play areas, including the front lawn, basketball courts, football field, playground, and jungle gym. They were even spotted taking a few minutes for early recess. Students in 3rd- 5th grade were tasked with cleaning the Oxon Run Creek and trail that runs behind the schools. The 6th graders ventured to the Oxon Cove Park and Oxon Hill Farm to work alongside Park Rangers to complete water quality tests and litter pick-ups.
The older students were asked to sign additional permission slips and bring in extra clothing which allowed them to get into the water. The students worked to pull corroded materials from the creek bed. Students were eager to get into the creek because they were under the impression that the stream was dead and that conditions were so bad that no wildlife could inhabit the area. Students were amazed to see scores of tadpoles and even what appeared to be a large bass as the cleared the debris.
Students collected roughly 600lbs of trash including a tire, a motorcycle, three shopping carts, two vacuum cleaners, and a slew of other scrap metals and pvc piping. After students completed cleanup activities they enjoyed the clean school yard and held Trash Free picnic lunches. Future projects include gardening and planting and a Professional Development movie viewing of “Bag It” for faculty.