Forget the notebook and the number 2 pencils, an Omaha elementary school is going paperless Wednesday. Lothrop Magnet plans to build upon its successful programs already in place.
As part of the district's green challenge series, every school is being asked to spend one day this month completely paper-free. A Missouri principal tried it several years ago, giving each teacher one ream of paper for the whole year and the school saved $20,000 that year.
This does require an investment in more technology and a reliance on digital programs, but advocates say it's about time we incorporate those tools into every part of the school day. They also say that by not handing out so many worksheets and paper assignments, we encourage learning environments where students and teachers are engaged in interaction.
Lothrop has long been a shining example of the green movement. It has collection bins so old eyeglasses and cell phones can be donated or recycled. It collects compost after meals to use in community gardens and collects used paper from every room, all huge changes from back when most of the teachers were in grade school.
“I just remember throwing away things and just really not giving it a second thought,” says principal Gary Westbrook. “It goes somewhere, but you know, just kinda thinking about that we've come a long way of making kids aware."
Even though they push the recycling bins every other day of the year they shouldn't need them anymore. Every staff member, teacher and student is being asked to make it through the day without using any paper.
The oldest students, the fourth-graders, make up the school's green teams. They call teachers out if they leave lights on too long and when it comes to mealtime, they're the ones teaching the younger students what it means to conserve. For both lunch and breakfast, the older students help the little ones separate compost, plastics and trash. This establishes ownership and leadership and it has them looking at the potential impacts of most every item we throw out.
“Like if you throw away those six-packs of pop or something like that, a bird could fly through it and get hurt really bad or if there's a plastic bag on the ground, we all know a cat's going to go in that plastic bag and the cat could suffocate,” says fourth-grader Jeremiah Booth.
These are lessons these kids are pushing at home, too.
Lothrop recently switched from foam trays to cardboard and by stacking them before putting them in the garbage they've cut down on trash and actually noticed they're saving money by having to buy fewer garbage bags.