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The Ray School is very proud of its recycling program. It began 30 years ago in 1978, when Mrs. Hawthorne’s third grade recycling bin made from sticks and Mrs. RL Brown’s second grade incorporated composting in a garbage can and a spring garden in their science curriculum. A few years later, two first grades joined the project. By 1993, ten classes were composting their fruit and vegetable scraps on the specially built compost pile located in the back of the school. The only reason this was later abandoned is because it attracted animals to prowl too near the playground area. But, the habit of recycling had been born.

Once curbside recycling started in Hanover, the program expanded to include all recyclables and then all Ray School classrooms and offices participated in the program.

When the program first started, a three hour garbage circus was organized for the whole school. After sending around to all teachers a list of materials to be recycling poster recycled, Mrs. Hawthorne’s students made a colorful wall-sized mural of recyclables and trash which was hung in the school lobby.

Mrs. Hawthorne placed her children at various stations in the lobby to advertise recyclable materials and to act as “barkers” as each class came, at a specified time, with their recyclables. A cacophony of “paper here,” “put your compost here,” aluminum cans,” resounded throughout the school.

At the end of the collection, Mrs. Force’s fourth grade weighed all the materials and made graphs showing amounts collected. These were posted throughout the school.

Teachers and students learned from active participation and follow-up discussion in their classrooms.

Two other activities that were fun were the Christmas tree ornaments and the inventions made from recycling materials. Mrs. Hawthorne’s third grade class made ornaments for all children in the school to be hung on their trees at home as a reminder to their parents about Christmas tree Recycling (Merry Mulch Day) in Hanover. Date, time, place, and logo were on the ornaments. Each week a special time was set aside for Mrs. Sellingham and Mrs. Hawthorne’s classes to work on “Cooperative Project.” The inventors of the group brought in empty odd shaped boxes, paper tubes, egg cartons, bottle tops, thread, empty spools, and other recyclables and throwaways and created great inventions. One was the “President Transporter from the White house to the Capitol Building.”

When Mrs. Hawthorne retired the area where recycling took place in the custodial space in the lower level of the school was named, the Hawthorne/Jackson recycling room in deep gratitude to Elaine Hawthorne and Alice Jackson (town volunteer) who dedicated so much time to developing this program not only in the Ray School, but in Hanover.

After Mrs. Hawthorne retired, the fourth grade team took over the responsibilities of the recycling room. Each fourth grade class, working on a monthly schedule, on Wednesdays accept and sort the recyclables from bins located throughout the school.

Early fall, Mrs. Hawthorne’s 3rd grade and Ms. Hayes’ 1st and 2nd grades discussed recycling, in general, before focusing on composting.

Lists were made of acceptable foods that go into the compost piles.

Mini-compost piles (in petri dishes) were made of samples of these foods to show how they decomposed and how long it takes. (pieces of paper and aluminum were also used.)

A written record was kept by the children showing how long it took for the materials to decompose.

To illustrate a complete cycle, the children were told that their school compost would be used as fertilizer in the 2nd grade spring garden; that the produce would be made into vegetable soup the next fall to be served to all participating classes; and that the seeds would be planted in the spring.

Then, upon requests from the surveyed classes, Mrs. Hawthorne’s third grades took turns giving brief “lectures” and explanations on how to compost. The mini compost piles were used in the demonstration.

On a daily basis, children from the participation classes took their fruit and vegetable scraps to the pile. Hs. Hayes’ class and Mrs. Hawthorne’s class were in charge of monitoring the compost pile. Every year, efforts were made to increase participation.

Alice Jackson

Beloved, Longtime Ray School Volunteer 1993