DOWNEY - Gallatin Elementary School launched the first stage of a pilot project last Friday designed to teach students the benefits of reusable grocery bags.The program was initiated by the City of Downey Green Task Force and has the endorsement of City Council, as well as the approval of Downey Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Wendy L. Doty. Overseeing the project at Gallatin was Principal Dr. Rani Maline- Bertsch, with creative assistance from teacher Cheyenne Swenson, and the support of Gallatin's entire faculty. On Friday, all Gallatin students from kindergarten through fifth grade received instruction on the benefits of reusable grocery bags as contrasted with the environmental costs of single use plastic bags. Anna Valcarcel spoke to the students and gave a PowerPoint presentation to all grade levels. Valcarcel is a conservation biologist with international experience specializing in avian environmental issues. She is a Downey native and teaches as a substitute in the Downey Unified School District, as well as at Cerritos College, having previously been a member of the science faculty at Warren High School. Following the day-long presentations, all 725 Gallatin students, faculty and staff received a reusable grocery bag to take home for their families to use. The bags were provided by a private donor. As the second stage of this pilot project, students have been challenged to bring to the school up to 50 or more single-use plastic bags this Friday, March 26. Each child can redeem 10 throwaway bags for a reusable grocery bag, up to five per child. A child who earns all five bags, along with the bag already provided, will be able to take home to his or her parents enough reusable bags to do the grocery shopping for a family of four, thereby keeping as many as 2400 throwaway plastic bags per family per year out of the trash, according to most research estimates. The third stage of the project will be a voluntary bag decoration competition for all Gallatin students. This contest will be judged by an as yet unnamed blue ribbon panel, and will culminate on Earth Day, April 22, when the winning students from each grade level will receive a prize. Following the completion of the pilot project at Gallatin Elementary, its success will be evaluated by both Superintendent Doty and by City Council for possible expansion to other schools in the district. The goal of the program is to empower Downey students to teach their parents about the significant environmental benefits of reusable shopping bags, and ultimately to change the shopping culture of the City of Downey to a community where reusable bags are the norm. Lars Clutterham is a member of the city's Green Task Force.
********** Published: March 26, 2010 - Volume 8 - Issue 49