Students at Gilmanton School (from left) Ethan Rodrigue, Logan Rouse, Jared Beale, Gracey LeBlanc, Kendal Heyman and Declan Angle will continue functioning as a committee after raising money to replace plastics in the cafeteria with silverware. (David Carkhuff/The Laconia Daily Sun)
Gilmanton students help rid school of cafeteria’s plastic ware, which ends up in oceans
By DAVID CARKHUFF/THE LACONIA DAILY SUN
GILMANTON — When fourth-grader Jared Beale sat down with classmate Logan Rouse for lunch one day, they shared an epiphany of sorts.
The plastic kitchen ware they were using could end up in a water body and ultimately in the ocean, potentially harming or killing sea creatures. This idea, stemming from a movie they had watched in school, prompted a schoolwide conversion to silverware.
"We watched a video called 'A Plastic Ocean,' and it was about how 80 percent of the world's plastic was thrown into the ocean," Beale recalled. "So when Logan and me were sitting together at lunch and he had a plastic fork, and he was about to throw it away, I told him not to because it would go into the ocean and hurt an animal."
Then, a teacher encouraged them to start a petition to get rid of plastics and restore metal silverware to the school.
The petition was a first step, but Rouse said they saw the need for more than signatures. The students decided they needed money so the school didn't front the costs of replacing cafeteria items such as trays and kitchen ware, he said.
"We raised money at a bake sale, and we earned about $650, and we decided we wanted to use the money for silverware and lunch trays," Rouse said. "So we don't have to use Styrofoam and dispose of it because that's worse than plastic."
About $100 has gone toward silverware, the students estimated. The rest of the money will help pay for trays and buckets so students can have somewhere to put their used metal silverware.
In addition to money raised at the bake sale, donations of silverware poured in from students and family members, the students noted.
Many students agreed it's a good idea to use silverware, and they're happy with the decision, Rouse said.
Beale said, "The teachers are proud because we did it by ourselves."
"We had a little bit of help from our parents and at the bake sale," Rouse said.
Courtney Phillips, fourth-grade teacher, said, "They've seriously done it on their own. They've had a little support and guidance from parents and teachers. They organized and planned everything."
The students formed a committee with classmates called the Save Our Seas Committee. They gave up recesses to hold meetings. The group plans to continue meeting to find other ways to make the school more environmentally friendly.
"The plastic is gone," Phillips said. "We have an abundance of silverware now. The money will be there, hopefully things won't get thrown away, but we can replace any of it."
One of the students, Declan Angle, agreed, "We have enough money to buy extra silverware if we need to, if kids throw it away."
Student Gracey LeBlanc said, "A good thing is kids aren't really throwing it away. We haven't had many incidents."
Brynn Koulovatos, the art teacher who showed the video about pollution of oceans, received praise for galvanizing the effort. Parent Melissa Beale said Principal Carol Locke and kitchen staff also were supportive. Bethanne Day, Beale's fourth-grade teacher, supported the effort and provided guidance, she said.
Jared Beale received a Jan. 10 letter of commendation from John Fauci, superintendent of schools, which read: "It has recently been brought to my attention that you have been instrumental in advocating that our school cafeteria go back to using silverware rather than the plastic we are presently using. I must say that I am impressed that you not only care about the effect that plastic has on our environment but you also are willing to do your part in helping to keep our school green."
Gilmanton School now provides silverware rather than plastic ware, in response to a student-led effort to prevent ocean pollution. (David Carkhuff/The Laconia Daily Sun)
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