Paper flies through the air as the Frisco Elementary third graders reach into the box, flinging its contents into the bins lined up in the hallway. At schools throughout Summit County, this has become a common sight, not because the students have suddenly become litterbugs; in fact, it's the opposite - they are learning about recycling and the environment through the Green Team program.
Green Teams are extracurricular groups that students can join to learn about environmentally friendly practices - recycling, reducing energy, composting, among others - and discuss them with classmates and teachers. The teams are part of the sustainability management plan that the district adopted last year.
The first teams were first formed at Upper Blue Elementary and Summit Cove Elementary and the idea has since spread. Now every school in the district, including the middle and high school, has its own Green Team.
The teams are organized by teachers and administrative members and filled out by students. Any student can join and spend time either before or after school learning about the environment and discussing ways to improve their school's sustainability efforts through various projects. Each school's Green Team operates independently, following its own ideas and passions.
"The whole idea is to be student led and student driven so they get a passion for it, and they can spread their education through the school," said Erin Young, vice president of the board of education and board representative of the district sustainability team.
Different sustainability-related projects have surfaced at each school. At Frisco Elementary and Summit Cove Elementary, students placed "turn off the light" labels on the building's light switches. Snowy Peaks High School made recycling and compost bins out of old oil barrels. Summit Cove sponsored a walk-to-work week.
Crystal Miller, the principal at Summit Cove Elementary, is the chair of the collective Green Teams. Her students are looking forward to learning about solar power as the project to build an array of solar panels near the school gets underway.
"Some kids have a real passion for it," she said. "I think we're raising kids that understand that resources are finite ... and that you have to take care of what you have."
The teachers and adults leading the Green Teams volunteer their time and are themselves passionate about environmental values.
"If there's going to be solution to some of these big problems that we have environmentally, our kids are going to be the ones that are going to have to care about it. If they care about it they'll come up with some solution," said Shelley Flavell, a first-grade teacher at Upper Blue Elementary. "I do it because I have hope that they can make a difference."
Kevin Reddell, Sarah Pappas and Bella Butler, the enthusiastically recycling Frisco Elementary third-graders, are serving their second year as Green Teamers. It doesn't take much to get them to talk about their experiences and what they have learned. They say that Green Team has taught them a lot that they didn't know.
"The valuable lessons of Green Team are: we want to save power, we want to save our earth, ... (and) we want to just have a good life," Sarah said. "It's just better for our environment to have Green Team."