03/15/2011
My Voice My Community
Litter campaign goes "viral" at Fell Elementary School

3rd graders to partner with The Phillies

What rhymes with “litter?” Not too many words, as Gretchen Matteo’s 3rd grade students at Fell Elementary School in South Philadelphia discovered when they launched their anti-litter campaign this winter. Still, they were undeterred in their efforts to increase awareness in the school about the impact of litter on their environment.

They began their campaign by doing a survey of litter in their school. Two students used a camera to capture images of trash in the building. They found candy wrappers in the hallways, gum stuck underneath tables and desks, Cheetos bags trapped in the mesh wire that covers classroom windows. They found litter everywhere and the students want to do something about it.

Gretchen projected the photos as the photographers narrated their findings.

“How empowering it was,” said Gretchen, “for the photographers to tell the class why they took the photos they did and to hear the students’ reactions.”

Gretchen arranged for the images to be developed and then displayed them where students would see them – near the cafeteria.

“I’ve heard comments by students that they are disgusted by what they’ve seen,” says Gretchen, “so maybe they will think before littering again, which is our plan.”

Another part of the plan is creating anti-littering posters for display in school hallways.

“We brainstormed two lists: words that rhyme with litter (which turned out to be not so effective) and a list of pictures we could use on our posters,” Gretchen continued. “Some students pasted actual litter on their posters.”

The students were surprised when a first grader came to their classroom telling them that the campaign motivated her to make an anti-litter campaign for her classroom. Hearing her message, Gretchen’s students broke into spontaneous applause!

Since then her students have been bringing in posters created by their younger brothers and sisters – a testament to the “viral” effect of their campaign.

This spring their project’s profile will be raised when the students serve as special ambassadors for the Phillies’ “Red Goes Green” campaign at Need in Deed Night at the Phillies. Each season the ballclub collects approximately 180 tons of recyclables. Gretchen’s students did the math; that’s 360,000 pounds, which is a lot. They’re ready!