Live Green and Earn Points


The Earth is Our Bathtub <em>or</em> The Philosophy That Inspires

By Green Schools Program |
A Green Schools Supervising Teacher in Clayton Public School District in Clayton, NJ, tells us about a green classroom success:

A bathtub can serve as a powerful metaphor for the impact green actions can have on the world; getting that across to college students is a bit more challenging.
A Green Schools Supervising Teacher in Clayton Public School District in Clayton, NJ, tell us about a green classroom success.
WRITTEN BY: Green Schools Supervising Teacher Jill Rusignuolo of Clayton High School

The early spring wind was picking up and taking the steam from the boiling white pine needle tea further uphill and away from the main campus. My fellow Colgate students had congregated around the camp stove on the “ski hill,” a fairly steep slope populated with milkweed and tall grasses that led up into the system of trails behind the central New York campus.

Many of these students were probably just interested in receiving gym credits for the new Outdoor Education course, Wilderness Ethics; I, however, was there to actually instruct the course and see if I could challenge and alter these students’ attitudes towards wilderness and environmental issues. After training for an entire year to lead these Outdoor Education courses, which ranged from backpacking to caving, from rock climbing to survival, I was now entrusted with the responsibility of teaching them.

My love of teaching was sparked and nurtured within this program and these gentle hills, but translating my own love of the land into a language the average college student could speak was not easy. Instead of the passionate philosophizing I anticipated, students would check their watches so often that one would think they were in Calculus. I was learning one of the most important lessons a teacher needs to survive: Take nothing personally.

On this particular day, my co-teacher, Brianne, and I were pleasantly surprised to see the sparkle in the eyes of our rapt audience.

“The world we live in can be likened to a giant tub, and all the decisions we make add water to this tub,” I explained, pulling my fleece tighter around my collar. “The cars we drive, where we get our energy, the number of kids we decide to have, the amount of water we use, the way we grow our food and even what we choose to eat — all of these decisions add water to the tub, and the more irresponsible our choices are, the more water we add. So what do we do to keep the tub from overflowing? We bail it out, one bucket at a time. Cleaning dirty water in a village to make it potable: One bucket. Recycling your water bottles instead of throwing them away: One bucket. But we find that the water is coming too fast, and no matter how fast we bail, the tub is becoming more and more likely to overflow. We’re playing catch up, but we keep falling further and further behind. The water keeps rising... .”

At twenty years old, I was five years away from embarking on my official teaching career, but I did not need a graduate level course in pedagogy to recognize the magic of that particular moment. “Wow,” I thought to myself, looking around as their facial expressions told me that their mental wheels were actually spinning, “It’s like I’m teaching philosophy or something… .”

“So how do you keep the tub from overflowing?” I asked.

The sun sunk a little lower in the sky. A hand went up.

“You turn the water off.”

How do you help keep the tub from overflowing? Share your ideas below!

Recyclebank Green Schools Program awards grants to schools in order to fund environmental projects that empower youth to green their own communities. For every 100 points donated to an accepted school, Recyclebank donates $10 to that school.

Under the guidance of Jill Rusignuolo, Clayton Public School District and the Clayton Environmental Club produce an Earth Day celebration every year; this is a half-day of activities sponsored and run by the club. Over seventy students sign up to help landscape the school entrances and pick up litter around the school grounds. After working, students enjoy lunch and participate in eco-themed activities, like an art contest, writing contest, obstacle course, and relay race.

Learn more about the Green Schools Program!

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  • Elaine F. 5 years ago
    I recycle everything I can.