Riverdale students leading school in efforts to fight pollution

Kelsey Allbaugh’s students stand together celebrating their success.

Kelsey Allbaugh

Kelsey Allbaugh’s students stand together celebrating their success.

Azariah Courtney, Editor in Chief

While many second grade classes were spending the week following spring break trying to get back into the swing of the school week, Kelsey Allbaugh’s Riverdale Heights class was launching a plan to send monetary donations to Living Lands and Waters to aid in a global epidemic of pollution.

Although the idea for this project was collective, it all began after the class read a book called Follow the Moon Home, which is part of the second grade social studies curriculum at the school. The book discusses how activism can begin at any age.

The students then read The Lorax and discussed different examples of air, water, and land pollution. Following this, Allbaugh showed her class how Chad Pregracke started Living Lands and Waters because he had a passion for a pertinent issue occurring in the Quad Cities.

After learning about how Pregracke stopped pollution in the Mississippi River, students watched a video about the organization which ended with information about monetary donations. This sparked a want for action in the classroom; the week of March 18, Allbaugh and her kids launched a plan to take action against pollution in the Quad Cities by raising funds and awareness of the issue.

The second grade class made several posters to describe the cause and help to create change. Together, they composed an email to other teachers at Riverdale Heights and urged them to share the information about Living Lands and Waters to their classes to create awareness and encourage donations.

Allbaugh’s class then organized a school coin drive to call attention to the local pollution problem. The drive was soon advertised in the school announcements. Before they knew it, their efforts snowballed and became something bigger than they imagined possible.

Allbaugh is extremely grateful for the interest other teachers showed in her class’s project at Riverdale Heights. “We would have never raised the amount we did without them,” stated Allbaugh.

Over the course of the past few years, Allbaugh had been making efforts to have members of Living Lands and Waters come into her classroom to educate her students on the issue, but the timing never worked out for them to do so. This year, however, the timing was perfect.

Megan Elgan, The Living Lands and Waters educational coordinator, went to Allbaugh’s class to share information about the organization. Additionally, she showed the students some of the items Living Lands and Waters had pulled out of the river. “Some of our class favorites were probably a baby doll head or a clown shoe,” Allbaugh said.

From their drive, the students raised $1282.16. They continue to put the skills they have learned from this experience to good use and have begun to pick up any trash found on the playground each day, sorting those items into recyclables.

Amy Miller, a second grade teacher at Riverdale Heights felt the impact  of the change that these students had on the rest of the school. “It was very interesting to see a group of young students take so much pride being able to count their coins and collect for such a great cause.”

“They inspired all of the students throughout our school to donate,” said Miller. “We were all so excited to see how much we could raise by the end of the week.”

Together, the school has aimed to implement better habits through small changes. Many students and teachers have tried to lower the usage of plastic in the environment by switching to reusable water bottles, and the school makes sure to recycle all of its used paper.

The second graders are proud to have made an impact on their school and in their community. Allbaugh said, “As a teacher, it was amazing to see my students so passionate about a global problem we are facing.”