Rhode Island College's 2013 Green Team Award Presented to Fourth Graders at Henry Barnard School 

When Lynda Thompson’s fourth-grade class at Henry Barnard School filed into the school dining room earlier this week they were were surprised to find a cameraman from Channel 10 news waiting for them.

At the podium was their principal, Lou Lloyd-Zannini. Nearby were Rhode Island College President Nancy Carriuolo and representatives of Rhode Island College’s Green Team.

After the students settled into their chairs, Carriuolo told them how impressed she was with the work they had done last fall for Green Up Clean Up Day at the college. For their efforts, they were presented with the college's 2013 Green Team Award. 

Each fall, Rhode Island College holds Green-Up Clean-Up Day, during which students, staff, faculty and friends of the college volunteer to pick up trash around campus and record what they find on checklists.

Some of the youngest members of RIC’s campus – Thompson’s fourth-graders – have been taking part in this event by gathering up all the checklists, grouping the findings into categories and graphing the totals.

The idea of graphing the trash was that of Eileen Sullivan, assistant dean of the Office of Partnerships and Placements at Rhode Island College and a member of RIC’s Green Team. She presented the idea to Thompson who saw it as a learning opportunity.

“It gave my students a chance to work with real-world data and to see how important data collection is,” said Thompson.

This past fall Thompson’s students took their data collecting a step further and decided to form their own fictitious green consulting firm – Green Team Solutions. Not only did they analyze the data from Green Up Clean Up Day, they offered solutions on how Rhode Island College could reduce, reuse and recycle the trash.

“We were really excited about the project, because we were doing a favor for the college,” said Jacob J., one of Thompson’s students. “Then we got even more excited when we heard that we were going to have a company of our own.”

The class brainstormed ideas about the jobs members of the company could perform. They decided upon artists who would design pie charts and graphs, solution researchers, a media team to put together a PowerPoint presentation and writers of brochures, business cards, proposals, essays and scripts for the PowerPoint presentation.

In analyzing RIC’s trash, the students found that the largest percentage of garbage was tobacco-related products – almost 2,000 cigarette butts – while food wrappers came in a close second, totaling almost 500. Together these items accounted for over 70 percent of the trash collected.

“We were ashamed at what we found,” said Brooklyn, another student. So much so, that she and a few friends donned gloves and spent their recess time picking up trash in the back of their school building.

“We filled two-and-a-half Stop & Shop bags with trash,” she said. “Most of it was cigarette butts, which don’t decompose.”

Solution researchers found a recycling company online – Terra Cycle – that would recycle butts. This was the biggest result of their research.

In the fall five students in the class made a PowerPoint presentation before the Rhode Island College Green Team and Carriuolo.

In March the five gave their presentation again; this time in front of a video camera. There were no signs of nerves, just general excitement, as the speakers arranged themselves on either side of a projection screen. Their company’s name Green Team Solutions (GTS) was written against a bold green background. The rest of the class settled on the floor in a semicircle around the speakers.

Jacob S. opened the presentation. He said, “GTS is your best option for data analysis and solutions. Your team of volunteers picked up the trash that people forgot to put in the trash can, and you selected us to do a very important job. We compiled your data and graphed the totals,” he said.

The speakers proceeded to present their findings and offer solutions.

Thompson said the project turned out to be much more than she or the children expected.

“They have such a passion for green issues, it’s hard to believe that they are only nine- and 10-year-olds. They really wanted to make a difference,” she said.

Next year her new fourth-graders will work with a new set of data collected on Green Up Clean-Up Day, and the learning will continue.

“Sometimes, when you do the right things for the right reasons, great things happen,” said principal Lloyd-Zannini.

Click on this link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oLPLJGiEI54 to see the entire presentation.