Problem Solving Project Creates Recycling Plan at Middle School
Gruening students address cafeteria waste issue, find cost-saving solutions
ANCHORAGE - Sometimes a problem can seem so big that it can be hard to know where to start to solve it. But students at Gruening Middle School are learning to tackle some big issues step by step in a class called “Project Citizen.” It’s a class where students learn how to identify problems, research solutions, then put their plan into action.
Eighth grade students in Kelsey Gerke’s class recently turned their attention to the school lunchroom, specifically, the amount of garbage that gets thrown out every day. Like many schools in the district, Gruening serves up lunch on disposable trays with plastic silverware that inevitably ends up in the garbage. Gerke’s students considered that a problem.
Students in the Project Citizen class decided to research how much the school spends every year on disposable lunch items and found the cost was significant, more than $2,500. Next, they looked into alternatives and discovered they could purchase reusable trays and silverware on-line that could go into the school’s dishwasher. Students say the savings over three years were several thousand dollars, not to mention lessening the impact on the environment.
But deciding on a solution wasn’t the end of the project, an action plan was next. Students wrote letters in support of switching to reusable lunchware to their principal, the school board, even local media.
Teacher Kelsey Gerke said learning how to get the word out and affect change is a big part of the lesson.
“Regardless of whether it actually happens, they’ve learned the process that they can use as an adult if they see something they don’t like.”
Project Citizen is a national program that schools can choose to teach, and it’s also a competition. Students from around the state will be showing off their top projects in April with a chance for the winners to head to the national competition.