PLEASE KEEP IN MIND I AM MISSING A FEW AUTHORS TO CITE AND IM STILL WORKING ON ANNOTATIVE BIB
Jersey City, NJ 07306
Date: October 13, 2014
Mr. Nicholas A. Capodice
Jotham W. Wakeman No. 6 Elementary School
100 Saint Paul's Avenue
Jersey City, NJ 07306
Re: Establishing an after-school program to address the issue of global warming and sustainability
Dear Principal Capodice:
Dire circumstances have led me to write to you on an important issue. As you may very well know, global warming and material sustainability is a serious threat that has been gaining some traction in recent times. Failure to subdue the vast amount of pollutants released into the atmosphere from human interference has led to an increase in climate temperatures. In addition, it is well established that there are a finite amount of resources left on Earth and measures should be taken to efficiently manage them. Unfortunately this is not the case in reality. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Americans produce 251 million tons of trash, 34.5 % of which is recycled. To put that in perspective, 60% is the maximum recycle rate that is achievable (EPA, 2014). The trash leads to methane emissions, which goes back to the global warming issue. Hurricanes, wildfire and droughts to name a few, are the present outcomes of climate change. The first step in the solving the problem is to create an awareness. It is oblivious to most Americans, how deep of a problem this is and there should be some consensus to further integrate this issue in the public education system. Children are the future and neglecting this issue will lead to an unsound outcome. The reason I write to you because you are the principle of Jotham W. Wakeman Elementary School. It is your obligation to be responsible for the knowledge, morals and behavior the children in your school receive. This school lies close to the East Coast, near the Atlantic Ocean which is prone to hurricanes. Taking a look back at hurricane Sandy which devastated the East Coast, electricity and gas outages were rampant throughout the public school district in Jersey City. It was a terrible and destructive event. Schools were closed for over a week which caused a loss of quality learning for the children, not to mention the money lost in paying teachers for the week the schools were closed. Now more than ever it is important to prepare the next generation with the knowledge and behavior to curb global warming. An environment and sustainability after school program for the fifth graders will serve exactly that purpose. From my recent visit to the school on October second, 2014, it has come to my attention there is only one trash bin in each classroom and cafeteria. There were no separate bins to recycle plastics bottles or aluminum and everything was placed into one trash bin. I spoke with Ms. Conklin, a fifth grade teacher about the programs available in the school. She informed me the school has never adopted an environmental program to directly address this issue in place. It is vital that children are given the knowledge to lower their carbon- foot print and make a difference in their school. In the program teachers will discuss a range of topics from proper waste management to lowering carbon footprint back at home. This plan is not to be considered a one size fits all, and will be implemented in several stages to fit the urban environment in which the school resides. The program will be a combination of educational discussions and integrating policies that promote efficient waste management, which as you will see, will lower budget costs. The annual estimated cost of this program will be $50,000. The responsibility does not solely fall upon the school, it is a group effort. With the help of parents, students, faculty and yourself, this program will be an success.
While the issues at hand are global warming and sustainability, there is much controversy surrounding global warming. There is a consensus in the scientific community that climate change is occurring, however there are those scientists who stress that the science of climatology is still in its infancy, and that global weather patterns are far too complex for scientists to make any definitive conclusions about whether humans are in fact causing the planet's atmosphere to heat up (Bowman, J., & Morley, 2014). According to the article, majority of the scientists and the United Nations agree, "that the acceleration of climate change, which lead to global warming, is caused by human consumption of fossil fuels, which has resulted in high levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere."(Bowman J, & Morley, 2014). Rightfully so, there is strong compelling evidence of this. Based on the data from the Global Carbon Project, there is a strong correlation between human activities and CO2 emissions as a function of time (Global Carbon Project, 2010, pg 4). Records of temperature and emissions have been kept ever since the Industrial age (Keating, 2014). Which begs the question, why worry about it now? The low emissions were cause to pay no mind, until now. Emissions in part per billion are at an all-time high and innovative technology has given a more accurate prediction of the future. There is a popular notion that there are many more years left before global warming will have any major implications, however that is not the case. According to the National Aeronautic and Space Administration, "Global climate change has already had observable effects on the environment. Glaciers have shrunk, ice on rivers and lakes is breaking up earlier, plant and animal ranges have shifted and trees are flowering sooner...loss of sea ice, accelerated sea level rise and longer, more intense heat waves"(NASA, 2007). Many scientists believe there is increase in frequency of hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean due to the rise in sea temperature. Looking back at how hurricane Sandy ravaged the North East Coast and prevented the 852 students and faculty at Jotham W. Wakeman from attending school for one week and causing a loss in time and money, I trust you can sympathize. Let's assume for a moment that there are too many variables which clouds the data and global warming is not a result of human intervention. Regardless, burning of fossil fuels and pollutants from cars has caused many health implications on children. These pollutants can cause a variety of illness such as Asthma, Pneumonia and Chronic bronchitis (Mark Fischetti, 2011). Sustainability is another issue that has to be addressed. Based on my personal visit to Jotham W. Wakeman, I have seen only one bin in each class room to place all trash, including in the cafeteria where all recyclable items and trash are mixed and placed into one large bag. The "trash" is then sent to The Jersey City Incinerator Authority to add to the pollution in the air. This is a problem because, not only is there a finite amount of resources available, but children are reinforced to have a lack of concern for the environment by not having the proper tools and education. From the legal point of view, New Jersey mandates all public schools are required to recycle items determined by the county (State of New Jersey, 1987). Despite all the issues this school is facing, a solution can easily be integrated over a short span.
Course of Action
The plan is to organize an afterschool environmental and sustainability program named "Youths for Environmental and Sustainability" or YES for short. As, this the first of its kind in the Hudson County district of public schools, the program should be implemented in several stages. Over a course of the first few weeks, support from the community is vital. Recall that this program is a group effort of both the community and school. First off, surveys should be given out to the parents and teachers to voice their opinion on the matter of an after school program. Parents are without a doubt a valuable asset to have to promote the goals of YES. The main priority of YES is to create an awareness of the impact individuals have on their environment and health and develop positive behavior at school to take back to the household and well onto adulthood. Surveys are a good source of data to determine the arrangements of the program. Important questions would be answered such as, what time would the parents want the program to end? How many times a week will it run? As this program will be designed to target 5th graders and not college students, it will run only once a week from 245pm to 3:45pm. The reason for this is to not overwhelm the children with too much information. Of course, this is subject to change depending on results from the survey, the needs of the children and your discretion. Considering this is an after-school program and is completely voluntary, there should be no concern that it will hinder the normal curriculum. The second stage involves educating the students and building the foundations on which healthy habits can be developed. Over the course of a few months, teachers will explain global warming and the implications behind it. Eventually leading to discussions about how as individuals, students can be empowered to be part of the solution and not the problem. One example of a topic discussion could be the idea of electric cars, a popular one is the Toyota Prius. It is the poster boy for eco-friendly cars on the road today. However, the terrible truth is that parts of the Prius are shipped from all over the world and the energy required to build one is more than three times what a Hummer would need in an expected lifetime. The nickel itself used in the battery is mined in Ontario that has caused acid rain to form in the surrounding area which destroyed the plants and soil (NCPA). Topics like the one mentioned previously will stimulate critical thinking and will influence decisions these children will make in adulthood. Teachers will explain how to recycle, what can be recycled and control food portions in the cafeteria to reduce trash. Recruiting environmental engineers to be guest speakers during one of the many sessions is an excellent way to bring real world knowledge into the classroom. I recommend Construction& Consulting Associates, Inc to be a great company, that has years of experience in environment projects and are conscious of how they impact nature. Armed with the knowledge, stage three of the plan can be implemented. This is where changes need to be made within the school. A single solitary garbage bin will collect both trash and recyclable items. An inexpensive designated recycling bin needs to be included in each classroom, cafeteria, gymnasium and any other garbage bin within the vicinity. Students can then focus less on lectures and begin to use their creative imaginations to design posters with a variety of slogans that promote recycling. Examples such as "build a forest, not a city" or "Things that can be recycled" can be placed on or near the bins. Posters can be also placed in bathrooms to serve as a friendly reminder to conserve water. Students can be split in groups with their own respect leaders. Tasks and responsibility can be divided, while one group has the task of making sure the school is following proper recycling etiquette, the other can focus on water conservation. Custodians will have to work closely with the program to accommodate the additions of the recycling bins for the Tuesday and Thursday recycle pick up days. The extra bins will be well worth it. In fact, "the average U.S. school uses almost 75,000 cartons every year. Over five years, an average elementary school of 400 students can save the equivalent of almost 1,500 reams of paper, 72 trees and 28,848 gallons of water - just by recycling cartons. By recycling cartons, less waste is sent to landfills and instead valuable material is remanufactured into paper products such as writing paper and tissues, as well as building materials like ceiling tiles and backerboard" ( Derric Brown , 2014). Decreasing the amount of trash is now a financial motive. It is noted in the Jersey Journal, that the Jersey City Incenerator Authority will charge $25 per pickup and $96.75 per ton of garbage to entities not covered by the city ordinance (Jersey Journal, 2011). Not only is money being saved on waste disposal fees, but the recycled cans and plastic bottles can be sold to the local redemption center for a tidy profit. The final stage involves teachers to design a numerical system to gauge the performance of students in the program. Those students who participate will be rewarded, motivating others to join and progress. Not only is this quantitative system will give recognition to upholding students, but it will help turn a short term discipline of environmental conscious behavior to a long-term cultural norm. This school teaches students from pre-kindergarten to fifth grade. The reason to target fifth graders initially is because they are the "upperclassmen" of their school. If younger children experience their older classmates making a change in the school, they also will be influenced to develop a conscious mind for the environment. It can be almost described as a "trickle-down effect"
The school has never adopted a formal program like this before and it is the first of its kind that could be introduced into the school. This may cause some skepticism on the validity of the success and effectiveness of the program. To ease that doubt, there have been other schools that implemented a similar program. An elementary school in Oregon for example, organized what they would call a "Green Team". The team consists of students ranging from fourth to sixth grade. The team was tasked with performing routine maintenance such as water plants, weeding, and collecting recyclables. Supervised meeting were conducted to have discussions of, "goals and progress review of safety procedures and expectations, division of tasks, and hands-on fun (Neeper, L., & Dymond, S., 2012, pg 42). According to (Neeper, L., & Dymond, S.), the team was invited with positive feedback among the students, school personnel, and parents. It was also noted in the article, this program allows students "to develop their critical - thinking skills by wrestling with various issues and views related to a topic, assessing their progress toward goals using the data collected, and brainstorming ways to improve their efforts...students had the experience and knowledge needed to more fully understand these issues...it was difficult to determine which students were Green Team members because all students increased their involvement in and ownership of each project! Without a doubt, development of the Green Team and use of service-learning enhanced the school's environmental education program and enabled it to flourish." (Neeper, L., & Dymond, S, 2012 , pg 42&45). It is evident that this program is made out to be a success. The YES program mimics this program, in various ways, however the concept of service- learning is the idea I want to take most out of. The EPA defines service-learning as "a method of encouraging student learning and development through active participation in thought-fully organized service that is conducted in and meets the needs of, a community." ( EPA, something). Service -learning has proven to be effect method for "The Green Team" and it will work all the same for YES. It is important to learn and take different aspects from the many types of after school programs, however it is as equally significant to learn from their shortcomings as well. One example, is the Drug Abuse Resistance Education or DARE for short. Their mission statement is "DARE New Jersey in collaboration with law enforcement, schools, parents, community and government agencies, will provide premier leadership, guidance, and direction to officers, parents and educators in delivering a comprehensive drug and violence prevention curriculum along with healthy life choice programs to New Jersey's youth and communities." (insert some shit here). Several studies however have shown that this program produces no results and is ineffective. "In brief, the six long-term evaluations of the DARE elementary school curriculum that we reviewed found no significant differences in illicit drug use between students who received DARE in the fifth or sixth grade (the intervention group) and students who did not (the control group). Three of the evaluations reported that the control groups of students were provided other drug use prevention education. All of the evaluations suggested that DARE had no statistically significant long-term effect on preventing youth illicit drug use." (insert some shit here). It should be noted DARE is an large scale international program which asserts, it has a healthy budget. It was until 2009 that DARE remedied the problem by not, "bombarding students with information in 45-minute lectures, they called for a hands-on program that would build communication and decision-making skills and let children rehearse these tactics via role play... A subset of that study with 1,300 students who were already using drugs, showed that the program reduced substance use at a rate that was 72 percent higher than the control group." (insert some shit here ). Learning from the drawback DARE has faced, the curriculum at YES will not consist of overwhelming students with dull lectures, but will have a hands-on approach. DARE was part of the school curriculum, which has its draw backs. After-school programs have a distinct advantage over a school mandated curriculum. As stated in an academic journal, "After-school programs are more open to experimentation than are schools. Schools are bound by curricular requirements set by policy makers at the district or state level; no such mandates exist for after-school programs... There are, accordingly, a variety of ways in which after-school programs complement and extend the efforts of school to help young people learn and develop."(my nigga hirschh).
As a graduate of Jotham W. Wakeman No. 6 Elementary School, I share your passion and responsibility to educate children in a safe learning environment and prepare them for the future. The Youth for Environmental and Sustainability is a cost-effective program that will supplement the important values schools stress onto children, to be responsible and well educated. With proper guidance and the sense of responsibility given to children to keep their school recycling and reducing the overall carbon foot-print, this program will breed environmentally literate, critical thinkers for the future. Under your strong leadership, with this ambitious and innovative program, this school can stand out and will be an example for other school districts to follow.