Metro Waste Authority, in conjunction with the Iowa Grocery Industry Association, sponsors the challenge, which runs October 1 – November 1. As part of the challenge, students learn the importance of recycling and reducing waste in landfills.
Participating is easy – bring plastic shopping bags to either Horizon or Wallace elementary school (or send them with your child). Or, help out by taking reusable shopping bags to the store and asking the checkout clerk to give either Horizon or Wallace credit for each bag you use. For every five reusable bags, the school gets credit for one pound of recycled plastic bags. The more pounds of bags each school accumulates, the better. For a list of participating stores, click here.
The top three schools (on a per capita basis of pounds recycled and the number of reusable bags used divided by the number of students at the school) will receive a piece of outdoor furniture, made from recycled plastic. Each school recycling at least 100 pounds and getting credit for 100 reusable bags will receive a $100 gift card. Winners are announced on November 15, America Recycles Day.
Mike Sandberg, a fifth-grade science teacher at Wallace Elementary, has headed up the school’s participation in the Build With Bags Challenge for the last three years. He said as a science teacher, the connection between learning and protecting the environment comes naturally.
“The Metro Waste Authority is a great resource for educational programs and out-of-the-ordinary learning experiences,” Sandberg said. “We take our fifth graders out to a landfill, which may not sound like a great fieldtrip, but it’s very eye opening for them to see the amount of garbage collected in a day and tire shredding for playground mats.”
Carol Moe-Stewart, a fifth grade teacher at Horizon Elementary, is well-known amongst students and staff for her passion for recycling. Fittingly, she’s coordinated the schools’ Build with Bags Challenge for the past four years.
“Kids are so easily encouraged,” Moe-Stewart said. “As adults, we can get stuck in our ways and not think about doing something different, like recycling. But kids come home with all this excitement and energy about protecting the earth, and it can get parents to adopt new routines. If kids start making good choices (about our environment) at a young age, that will help future generations.”
As part of the science curriculum, Moe-Stewart incorporates lessons on recycling into her teaching. She then charges fifth graders with teaching younger grades about how and what to recycle, and why it makes a difference. Peer-to-peer teaching, she feels, helps spread enthusiasm and the quality of learning.
What’s more, Horizon Elementary Principal Tim Salmon said they use the Build With Bags Challenge to create some friendly competition at the school.
“When we received the leader board notices from Metro Waste Authority, we use that to fire up students and staff about our ‘place’ amongst other schools,” Salmon said. “We also make sure parents stay up-to-date on our progress so they can help out whenever they head to the store.”
Participating in the Build with Bags Challenge is for everyone. Drop off your plastic bags at Wallace or Horizon Elementary schools, or bring your reusable shopping bags to participating metro stores and tell the checkout clerk to give points to either school.