Happy Valley first-graders donate used towels while learning about protecting the environment

Worldwide organizations spend millions of dollars on advertising and informational campaigns to get the word out about the harmful effects of pollution and waste. For Happy Valley Elementary, the education is starting at a much younger level.

First-grade teacher Daphanie Roberts has always included environmental topics and lessons into her lesson plans for the four years she has worked at the school, but this week has been something special.

This past week has been all about the three Rs: reduce, reuse and recycle, the focal point of which being a used towel collection for the Carter County Animal shelter.

“All year long, we reuse many different materials in the classroom,” Roberts said. “We try our best to find purposes for things.”

As part of this premise, she said she found out about the animal shelter’s need for new bedding for their animals.

The children donate dozens of used towels, which Roberts and several parents will bring to the shelter Saturday morning.

Roberts said the entire week centered around simple ways to follow the three Rs in the children’s lives.

“We talked about turning off their Nintendo Switch when they are not using it and turning off the lights before leaving the house,” she said.

She said she also encouraged students to wear green or superhero clothes in order to inspire them to help the Earth.

She said that passion the students show first comes from herself.

“I recycle at home; we have curb-side recycling in Johnson City,” Roberts said. “I also use recycling centers for larger items.”

She said this personal passion is what is needed to truly reach her children.

“If they realize something is important to you, they will want to be a part of that,” she said.

During the interview, the first-graders were constantly coming up with ways they could save energy and keep garbage out of the local landfills.

One girl said she uses old boxes to create beds for her baby dolls.

“We try to teach the effects of pollution,” Roberts said. “We cannot keep filling our landfills. We show them, if everything ended up in the landfill, what would it look like?”

This kind of teaching has extended into watching videos about the harmful effects of littering and pollution. In one example, a video showcased a young turtle caught in a plastic container for a six-pack. In the video, the children said the turtle’s shell, trapped under a tight ring of plastic, looked like the number eight.

Beyond mere information, however, Roberts said she wants to inspire her students to make a difference in their communities, no matter how small.

“I was really proud of what they accomplished,” she said. “I want to inspire these kids to make a difference.”

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