More outdoor learning leads to more litter on school campus, educational opportunity for students

A teacher and his students at the Gordon School in East Providence are cleaning up trash around campus, and learning from the experience

By: Tim Studebaker

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EAST PROVIDENCE R.I. (WLNE) – Like many schools, the Gordon School in East Providence has been holding classes outdoors as a COVID precaution.

Gordon School science teacher Cushman Gillen says, “We have designated outdoor classrooms, snack and recess outside, essentially all throughout the day.”

But, all that time outside has opened their eyes to a new problem.

Gillen says, “Students were seeing, and myself, were also reporting just a lot more trash around campus.”

Gillen and his 5th and 6th grade science students saw an opportunity, not just to clean up the trash, but to learn from the experience.

Gillen says, “How long does it take plastic to decompose in our environment?  So, what happens if we don’t pick up this trash around campus?  How long is it going to stay there?”

The students track their cleanup efforts using an app called Litterati.  It helps them record what types of trash they found, where and when they found it, and even lets them take a picture of the trash before they clean it up.

Gordon School student Harper Kimura says, “Personally, picking up assorted pieces of trash isn’t the most fun thing to do.  But, when you remember what it’s doing, then it makes you more enthusiastic.”

By keeping track, they can pinpoint problem areas on campus where a new trash can might be needed, or suggest parents use less plastic when they pack a lunch.  It’s a lesson the students can take with them at the end of the day, to inspire others to clean up their act as well.

Gordon School student Santiago Mendoza says, “You may think that if you pick up like one or two pieces of trash, you’re like ‘I’m not making any difference’ but that’s not true.”

So far they’ve picked up 2,600 pieces of trash.  Their goal is 10,000 by the end of the year.

© WLNE-TV / ABC6 2020

Categories: News, Our Schools, Rhode Island