Holding hands in praise

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The earth belongs to the Lord. 
And so does everything in it.

Psalm 24:1 

How much daily waste can a second-grade classroom really produce?

According to Spanish Immersion teachers Krista Vanderzee and Rachel Jen, quite a lot, and this year, the class’ group project aimed to reduce their carbon footprint while learning vital lessons about sustainability.

For the past three years, Vanderzee and Jen have guided their students through large-scale projects connected to a particular spiritual discipline or theme. In the past, students have studied endangered animals or migrant workers’ rights. 

Though facilitated by the two teachers, the theme is driven by general consensus in the class after determining where each student’s passions lie. 

Through an open class discussion in early spring, the class decided they wanted to learn more about their own waste production, and how this can affect both animal habitats and the students themselves. Then over spring break, Vanderzee and Jen got to work developing a learning model that reflected the Iroquois theme of Creation Care, and the project began.

Over the next month or so, the class vastly decreased their daily trash by recycling, reusing, and composting; collected and sorted waste and graphed the results of their efforts; read articles about sustainability and wrote reflective paragraphs; posted about their work throughout the Iroquois building; and shared their efforts with parents.

After two experimental weeks of reducing their waste through intentional efforts, the students were more engaged than ever. “It was extra work for them,” says Jen. But “they wanted every single change that we had implemented to continue for the rest of the year.” 

Because of this passionate response, Vanderzee and Jen continued guiding the students through their sustainability efforts, and over the course of the project, the class was able to decrease their waste by two thirds.

At the end of the project, Vanderzee and Jen were surprised and delighted at the students’ passion for and commitment to a healthier environment for all. Working on potentially tackling this topic again this year based on overwhelmingly positive feedback, the Spanish Immersion teachers now have a model for an effective, cross-disciplinary project that connects students with their faith and with the world.


  1. Pack lunch in reusable containers
  2. Buy reusable beverage containers
  3. Pack cloth napkins and silverware
  4. Purchase bulk snacks
  5. Shop seasonally
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