There's plenty of reading, writing, and arithmetic being taught at Brookfield, but the students are also learning hands-on how to care for their environment. The school day starts with breakfast in Mr. Hilliard's fourth-grade class, but it's what happens after breakfast that is so special. "We just put our breakfast inside the right bin that shows the pictures," explains 10-year-old Jayla Brunfield.
There are no trash cans. The students meticulously separate their waste both in the classroom and in the cafeteria so that nothing goes to waste. "They understand their environment stays clean and by composting and separating, they help the environment," Hilliard says.
It's part of the Green Gloves program. Nearly half the schools in the Oakland Unified School District are participating and in doing so, the district is diverting more than 41 percent of its solid waste from the landfills. "We take those food scraps and we take them to a recycling facility and we make compost out of them, and then we can return that back to the schools for their school gardens. So, we entirely close the loop," explains Jessica Jones with waste management.
That's right. The students reap the benefits in their own school gardens. The program is in its second year and the district is predicting great growth in the future. "It's very exciting. It's fun going out and getting the reception from other folks that they're interested in being able to sort out their waste," says Nancy Deming with OUSD.
The students have made homework out of it, taking the concept to their families. "I put like, a little bin. We went to Walmart to buy some little bins and then me and my brother was making my posters on the bins," 9-year-old Losaline Pale says. "Yeah, they seem to enjoy it," Hilliard says.
The different schools each have their own programs but in each case, waste management donates its "Earth Care" compost and mulch.