Recycled cans open avenue to science supplies

November 24, 1993|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,Staff Writer

Pupils at Richard Henry Lee Elementary School are getting two lessons in one: the anti-pollution message of recycling and a study in turning crushed cans into money for school supplies.

The project, which began about two weeks ago, has brought in 78 pounds of aluminum cans and less than $25, said Jeanette Callis, the school's science chairwoman, also known as "The Can Lady."

The goal is to raise about $500 this year. If that doesn't sound like a lot, consider this: The 580 children at Richard Henry Lee cannot be expected to bring in more than a pound of aluminum a month, Ms. Callis said, and a pound brings 23 or 24 cents from Reynolds Aluminum Co., which sponsors recycling programs in hundreds of schools nationwide.

The money will go toward Richard Henry Lee's science supplies, which have gotten scarce, and establishing a science closet.

Microscopes and thermometers that have broken over the years have not been replaced, victims of a shriveled budget. Chemicals, such as iodine, expired in a cupboard and were not replaced, said Principal Wayne Bark.

Pupils need to use those tools to develop a feel for science, and they need to see for themselves that mixing vinegar and baking soda produces a gas, not read about the experiment in a book, Ms. Callis said. "How are they going to learn?" she said.

Teachers often have paid for consumables -- items that cannot be used repeatedly -- out of their own pockets, Ms. Callis said. And that can cost about $75 by the end of the school year.

Many of those supplies -- such as the fish the fourth-graders dissect and the celery third-graders use to study plant life -- don't keep from day to day, let alone from year to year. Mushrooms don't stand up well to being handled by a few children, Ms. Callis said. And a science closet needs to keep a stock of vinegar and baking soda.

The school's PTO will sponsor an after-school get-together -- more of a rally than a dance -- on Jan. 14, with recycling as the theme, said Stephanie MacDonald, PTO co-president.

An added incentive is a recycling flag that Reynolds gives each school that recycles 500 pounds of aluminum, Ms. Callis said.

The school hopes to get the community active in the project next month by adding a recycling bin outside the building, Mr. Bark said. Cartons and bags are inside the school.

The science curriculum includes units on pollution, renewable resources and the environment. Recycling gives pupils a way to put those studies to practical use, Ms. Callis said.

"They have to know they have to recycle. They are going to have to have to do it," said Ms. Callis.

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