The young students of Atchison took the afternoon to get outside and clean up the Earth, or at least their own community.

As part of Amanda Davis’ Success Seminar elective course, the students learn to embrace the idea that taking care of our planet is a task where everyone needs to step up and do their part. One wouldn’t have to tell Jayden Sumpter that the stakes are high.

“I could wake up one day and we have to move to another planet,” the seventh-grader said. “Or, move to another city or state or something, but if we help out with the Earth, that may not happen.”

The students hit the streets to clean up whatever they could see, wherever it could be found, with their teacher reviewing the principles of proper disposal and recycling along the way. The lessons Davis has taught emphasize how in order to properly recycle something, it is essential to put things in their proper place, and to never insert non-recyclable material into the system.

According to lecture material she has prepared, there have been incidents where a single plastic bag, thrown into the wrong recycling mechanism, has gummed up the works for a whole day. The situation becomes more complex in considering how many consumer items have a recycling symbol on them, but may be incompatible with the local recycling system.

“Not a lot of kids know about recycling and how to collect it properly, a lot of them just have no idea,” Davis said. “Styrofoam can’t be recycled in the Midwest, anywhere, because it’s too expensive. They do it on the coast, but not here, even though it has a little recycling thing on the bottom, we still can’t recycle it.”

In exploring the different parts of their community that are prone to collect litter, the students received hands-on training on how much effort is needed to keep clean even a small town of about 11,000 people. Without volunteer cleanup crews, they learned, most towns like Atchison would become overwhelmed by the amount of loose garbage blowing around in the spring wind.

“We picked up a lot of trash and recycling, and so we need to, like, change the world, because there’s a lot of pollution ...” said seventh-grader Jayden Kelley.

On this Earth Day, Davis also wants her students to be thinking about the long-term future of the environment around them; the seventh graders are currently reviewing the threats of global warming and climate change in science class.

“They’re getting kind of a well-rounded piece right now about how these factors are affecting our environment,” she said.

Marcus Clem can be reached at

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