(Photos by Leonna Heuring, Staff)
SIKESTON -- Students at Matthews Elementary in Sikeston are going green -- and they want the rest of the city to follow them.
The Sikeston R-6 school was one of 149 K-12 public schools across the United States and Puerto Rico to receive a Hewlett-Packard Technology for Teaching grant. There were 15 schools in the state that each received a $38,000 grant. Each school received an award package of HP products and a cash award for each teacher.
"The students are really excited and have gotten in the habit of recycling. They've even asked if they could bring paper from home to recycle (through school)," said Katie Lape, third grade teacher at Matthews Elementary.
Five teachers, Lape; Kristy Beaird, Title I math teacher; Brooke King, second grade teacher; Kristen Porter, first grade teacher; and Jaclyn Scott, first grade teacher; along with principal Angela Zorbas submitted a proposal in February to Hewlett-Packard.
Each of the five teachers received an HP Tablet PC, LCD projector, HP digital camera, HP printer/scanner/copier, $500 stipend, customized professional development opportunities through an online course in collaboration with the International Society for Technology in Education and a shared Designjet printer. The Sikeston R-6 School District also installed SMART Boards in each of the classrooms.
The students have already begun the first phase of the project by focusing on recycling. Students placed boxes in each classroom and office to collect paper to recycle that would otherwise be thrown away. Paper is collected on a weekly basis.
In week one, the students collected 117.61 pounds of paper; week two: 199.4 pounds; and week three: 119.2 pounds. Lape's third graders then calculated the average amount of paper recycled (145.4 pounds) and found the estimated total amount of paper that Matthews Elementary throws away in a 36-week school year is 5,234.4 pounds.
"We've been recycling paper to help the environment," said third grader Brett Johnson. "It's good to recycle cause waste can kill animals."
Brett said he told his parents to recycle, too, so they can all help the environment.
"Going green means don't do bad things that will hurt the earth," said third grader Lauren Casey. "Recycle helps keep the environment clean, and it keeps the Earth's protection around it"
Ways other people can be "green" are recycling and not littering, Lauren said.
Besides learning about ways to improve the environment, students at Matthews are also benefitting from the technological equipment their teachers received through the grant.
Lape said she can use the SMART Board, or interactive white board, to teach all of her subjects.
"The SMART Board keeps the kids active and engaged," Lape said.
Lape has access to many online educational resources such as games, videos and quizzes. For example, on Tuesday, her students learned about counting decimals, and Lape used online lessons projected onto the white board. Students were able to participate by drawing on the board and could also answer questions by touching buttons on the screen.
And the students said they also love the SMART Board.
"It's just really fun," Brett said about using the board.
"It helps us learn. It's like your own little game," Lauren said. "We go to the Internet (through the SMART Board) and use special markers that don't write on paper."
Students will continue to collect paper the rest of the year. Parent volunteers are taking the paper to the recycling drop off in the Sikeston Wal-Mart parking lot once a month.
The next phase of the project will have students looking at ways other than recycling to be more "green" at school and at home. The final phase will have students looking at community needs and culminate in a presentation to the Sikeston City Council.
"Sikeston doesn't have a recycling program, and so our goal is to prove to the city council there's a need for one in Sikeston. We're doing that by collecting data and showing how much waste occurs in just one school," said principal Angela Zorbas.
Zorbas also noted because there isn't a citywide recycling program, the school is using personal vehicles and fuel to haul the recyclable items to the drop off site at Wal-Mart.
As for the students, they said living green is something they'll continue to do and teach others about.
"I'll do it for the rest of my life," Brett said.