I have been collaboratively teaching Cafcu’s ARTS+ACTION Cafeteria Waste Reduction curriculum to over 4,000 K-8th graders in 14 schools, mostly located in low-income minority communities. Teaching the “why” before the “how,” we train students to be Cafeteria Rangers who oversee all sorting and recycling. I also teach “Make Change Messaging” lessons, which culminate in student designed campaigns, such as building giant puppets, to engage entire communities on the inextricably link between garbage and climate change.
NYC recently launched a School Composting Program, which has expanded from 60 schools to almost 400, with plans to accommodate all 1,800 public schools. But the NYC school cafeteria lunch period is a unique situation within the school day, full of obstacles for achieving recycling, composting and proper sorting. Due to operational gaps, limited cafeteria staff, few educational components, and lack of kid-appealing signage, the contents of the compost bins (totes) often look identical to that of the trash bins. Additionally, curbside theft of the new totes is a growing problem.
Our team has spent thousands of hours training students and school staff in cafeterias, primarily in underserved communities. We constantly pilot new ways of improving the cafeteria recycling procedure and sorting stations. We also seek new methods of engaging youth on the environmental injustice issues surrounding NYC’s 11,000 tons of garbage generated daily.
Building upon the success of ARTS+ACTION, we will lead the Curbside Compost Messaging (C2m) project as an after school workshop with low-income minority youth from grades 3-5 in 2 Crown Heights -Brooklyn schools. Youth will co-design and paint 3 D murals directly onto the City’s new totes (there are 8 totes per school), transforming the dull brown totes with their visual messages of garbage reduction, beautifying Brooklyn, and composting, to inspire and educate their peers and neighboring communities.
Funded by New York City, NY (April 2014)