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Massachusetts Libraries Collaborate on Climate Preparedness and Sustainability

Modeling Sustainability in the School Library

by Gabrielle Griffis on 2023-02-20T09:23:00-05:00 | 0 Comments

By Laura Gardner, Teacher Librarian for Dartmouth Middle School 

Schools have a captive audience of youth for 7 hours every school day. What we do in terms of sustainability can make a big difference. As a school, we teach about the climate crisis in 7th grade science and students do an inquiry project related to a topic of their choice related to sustainability and climate change. We have an opportunity on daily basis, however, to model sustainability in our operations and programming. 

The library MakerSpace has always had a sewing machine. In the after school MakerClub, I have a core group of students who happily make pillows, aprons, and other items. Recently, I started advertising school wide the opportunity to learn to sew and particularly to repair clothing items. I model this by bringing in clothing and items from my own house to repair. In the first week of advertising the program, we’ve fixed one pair of pants and two shirts, and kids are planning to bring in more. I want students to remember that Reduce, Reuse, Recycle are not the only R’s of sustainability – Refuse and Repair and important, too! 

Speaking of Refusing – my lunch bunch students can now officially refuse plastic silverware! My library hosts 60 students for 7th and 8th grade lunch periods (30 in each) whenever I don’t have a class in the library for 4th period. The students are kids who need extra connection and social time to feel like they belong in school and many of them are big fans of the library for various reasons. I used to have plastic silverware in the library from takeout restaurants for student use, but now that I regularly refuse plastic utensils, I don’t have a supply to share. Recently, I purchased a set of bamboo silverware that can be used, washed, and used again. Students are loving using the utensils; several are even using bamboo chopsticks by choice. 

The next step is to compost uneaten food. We have a new garden club that is starting a compost bin in a courtyard near the cafeteria. We will keep a bucket in the library to collect food scraps to deliver to the school compost bin. Or maybe we’ll start our own small compost bin in our library courtyard! Another initiative we started during lunch is our Take a Fruit/Leave a Fruit basket. Students who buy lunch are forced to take a fruit and a vegetable, but sometimes these were ending up in the trash. Now we add apples, oranges, bananas, and bagged carrots to the basket and then other students can take them. Due to a severe allergy incident in our district last year, we aren’t allowed to offer any food items except those that come from the cafeteria. With our sharing basket, I have a way of offering hungry students a snack that is school approved. 

Sustainable living is something that I’m really passionate about and I’m so happy to be sharing these ideas with students. I even raffled off two bamboo utensil sets for students to keep; the competition was fierce! In all, so far the reaction has been very positive and I look forward to supporting my students as they strive to be more sustainable in their school and home lives. 

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