Education Matters: Students are making PSAs to stop littering

SANGER, Calif. - They are only 8 and 9-years-old, and they are working on a project that would rival anything adults would tackle.

“The project that we are working on in civic learning is to stop littering,” student Aubrey Oum said.

This is the issue third graders at John Wash Elementary School in the Sanger Unified school district deemed was one of the most important in their community.

“Littering is getting worse because it’s growing and growing,” said 8-year-old Allyson Tran.

Allyson and her classmates reached this conclusion after doing their research.

“We had decided that at third grade it would be easiest for them to go out and take pictures in the community,” said teacher Rachel Buhr. “They conducted an analysis of those pictures and identified things and they used their math skills – their graphing to then graph what they had noticed and observed in the pictures.”

And what did they see walking home from school, visiting the park or grocery store, litter trash – and they didn’t like it.

“I was thinking that it’s not good because maybe like when you’re riding a bike or something, and there is litter, and you don’t see it, like probably your bike can fall over or something,” Allyson said.

The students, with the guidance of their teachers, came up with an action plan. They would create a public service announcement; hey would develop posters and write letters to the editor – and organize a community clean up.

The project is part of John Wash Elementary’s new emphasis on civic learning – showing students that there are many ways for them to get involved in their community.

Principal Amy Jones began this focus after applying for and being awarded the Bonner Award from Fresno State’s Bonner Center for Character Education and Citizenship.

“It’s always been a character award but they were including civic learning as part of that character piece and that was really compelling to me,” Jones said.

Jones became even more convinced this was a discipline she wanted to teach in her school after reading and studying research that showed being civic minded is learned.

“When you look at the research, and see that high school seniors and juniors don’t understand how the framework of what our founding fathers had set up in the government in the Constitution, they just don’t have that knowledge; so it has to be taught, and it has to be taught at an early age,” Jones said.

When these third graders see one of their PSAs air on television, or see one of their letters in the paper, or the results of a community cleanup day – they really will believe they have power.


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