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Students present projects to sustainability committee

Grants help Forest Grove pupils learn about ways to protect the earth


At its meeting Thursday, May 26, the Forest Grove Sustainability Commission honored student recipients of mini-grants given to encourage sustainability education.

The students presented their completed projects and answered questions.

Fourth-graders from Harvey Clarke Elementary School used their $300 grant to build solar ovens from shoeboxes over one month with guidance from teachers Mindy Perkins, Jennifer Olson, Amy Burke and Angela Donnelly. The solar ovens use insulating and reflective materials to use the sun’s heat to cook smores, which the students agreed was their favorite part of the project.

Perkins was encouraged by watching her students work through the difficulties of building solar ovens both sustainable and effective. “It’s great seeing the cooperation, the brainstorming,” she

said.

The grant allowed the students to purchase 10 additional thermometers and bins to store the ovens for future use. The students came away with an understanding of the importance of recycling and reusing — plus the possibilities of building with reclaimed materials.

“We really liked making the s’mores,” said fourth-grader Kathleen Wyborny. “But also the recycling and reusing.”

“I liked building the oven and testing it,” said Sofiah Gravley. “It’s about reusing and the impact on the environment. We don’t have to hurt the earth.”

Fourth-grader Nico Rafalovich enjoyed the challenge of the design and construction, “figuring out materials and what would work,” he said. “We had fun testing our theories.”

Commission chair Brian Schimmel praised the students’ efforts.

“They were fantastic,” he said. “That’s the generation who’re going to help solve the climate epidemic.”

Students from Echo Shaw Elementary presented a poster of the results of their cafeteria recycling audit. Only a small fraction of waste is recycled, they found, and the vast majority goes directly into the garbage. On a similar note, Joshua King, a seventh-grader at Neil Armstrong Middle School, gave a presentation on reusable trays in his school cafeteria.

King found that Neil Armstrong, which uses disposable plates instead of reusable trays, throws away around 1,200 styrofoam plates each day. Not only does this clog landfills, but in the production of styrofoam, he said, 57 chemical byproducts are created. He passed around a petition requesting Neil Armstrong to switch to reusable trays.

After the student presentations, committee member and Forest Grove High School student Edgar Sanchez-Fausto gave the results of the One Bag a Week initiative, which asked participants to monitor their waste and attempt to fill only one trash bag over a week, and which helped them reduce their CO2 emissions by an average of 33 percent. In a related poster contest, Alicia Ortiz won first place, Maria Hernandez second place, and Ana Bautista third place.