The War on Litter
The commentary surrounding the war on litter continues to make headline news and impacts school curriculum. To grab people’s attention, education regarding litter contains many catchy slogans and sayings: “Get a grip on garbage,” “Leave it—it’s only a sweet wrapper . . . said one billion people,” “Plastic takes four hundred years to decay,” and so on. We also know, and are educating future generations, that if we do not respond to and rectify the damage we are creating on God’s planet, that we are facing some serious trouble ahead.
Every day at the school I am the primary principal of, Heathdale Christian College in Victoria, Australia, I used to pick up at least six buckets of litter per day.
God gave us the land and everything on it. We are called to be good stewards of the earth, and yet despite all the education we do, does any of it make a difference? Every day at the school I am the primary principal of, Heathdale Christian College in Victoria, Australia, I used to pick up at least six buckets of litter per day. However, something recently has changed the habits of my one thousand primary school children who had a propensity to throw rubbish on the ground.
Experiments to Combat Litter
I am in my twenty-fifth year in education, and the issue of litter has been a thorn in my side all along. Every day for years, I have watched children throw not just their wrappers on the ground, but their sandwiches, and even full hamburgers. The children say, “The birds will eat it,” or they believe the maintenance people will take it away. It seems to be a learned behavior, but from where? Believe me I have tried it all—rubbish-free lunch boxes, clean-up working-bee days, a bin on every corner, having everyone pick up five pieces of litter when the bell rings, even litter picking as a punishment (back in the day). Nothing has worked—until now.
A Potential Solution
When I was a child, my grandfather had a grabber. I loved this gadget; I could use it to pick up anything and transport it without using my hands. It was fun and therapeutic. The grabber motion mesmerized me. As I watched the children play one day, I remembered the grabber and wondered: would this work with litter? So, I formulated a plan.
As I watched the children play one day, I remembered the grabber and wondered: would this work with litter?
I bought a grabber (AU$10), a bucket (AU$5), and a new fluorescent vest (AU$5), all from a local hardware store, and I sequined “Mrs. Harvey” on the back of the vest for fun. Every lunch and recess for a term, I wandered the schoolyard with my grabber and bucket, quietly picking up litter. Every day I would have buckets full. Children started to come up to me and put their rubbish in my bucket. Then something happened: children asked if they could have a turn. But I would not let them. I would say, “No, you have to wait to get your own grabber, but if you really want one, I will get you one.” They were desperate for the grabbers!
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Yvonne Harvey is the primary principal of Heathdale Christian College in Werribee, Victoria, Australia. She has taught for twenty-five years in the United Kingdom and Australia in state, private, and Christian schools and remains convinced that education is where Jesus wants her to be.