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  • Writer's pictureSarah Hudson

“Not to knock the Buddy Bench, but…”

Updated: Sep 14, 2019

A book I fell in love with last summer was, The Little Hummingbird, retold and illustrated by the internationally renowned Haida artist, Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas. It’s an African tale complimented with west coast Indigenous illustrations. It had a clear message and was easily relatable to everyone, especially children. Little did I know, it would have such an impact on our school community.

Early in the school year, during a staff meeting, the principal addressed the ongoing litter problem on our school grounds. Inspired by a student support worker’s effort many years before and with the Little Hummingbird fresh in my mind, I volunteered to take on the school wide problem.

Many years ago, I had a wonderful student support worker. She worked with a boy with autism and looked for social opportunities during recess and lunch. She created a friendship group called, “The Clean Team,” because the little boy was passionate about taking care of the environment. Like-minded students, “environmentalists,” were asked to help the little boy collect litter in the primary playground, using tongs and buckets. The group was successful and easy to maintain.

Now, fast forward to last year, when I took on the school-wide garbage problem. I began the endeavor by reading the story, The Little Hummingbird, to my grade two class. We looked for connections and real-life applications, (see my unit I designed with these lessons.) We also wrote a script based on the tale, to perform as a reader’s theater activity. I approached my most dramatic students and asked them to perform the play at the next school assembly when I launched “The Green Team.”

The play was a success. The grade twos were so proud of themselves as they drummed up a lot of enthusiasm for the “Green Team.”

The Green Team was open to primary students. And with the hummingbird as our symbol, and the idea that even the smallest students could make a difference, students raced to sign up for recess and lunch duty. They wore special rain jackets, used buckets and tongs and took their jobs very seriously. Initially, the number of students who wanted to participate was more than the weekly sign up sheet could accommodate. And within days, there wasn’t enough litter on the school grounds to keep them busy! Supervising staff even spotted some students picking up garbage already in the garbage cans. (I’m guessing they were completing for the most?) However, after a few months, the number of volunteers dropped, and that’s when I noticed something incredible…

The Green Team began to attract students who either: (a) really cared about the environment, (b) enjoyed helping the school community and took their job seriously, or (c) found socializing at recess and lunch very difficult and now had an alternative. Not to knock the “Buddy Bench” but… there is only so many times a child can repeatedly sit there before that becomes their regular recess and lunch experience.

In the end, the Green Team was a complete success! The school grounds were clean, students who needed a social alternative had a purpose, and the idea of contributing to the school community and helping the environment was the driving motivator for many. Plus, depending how you look at it, the best part was that it required very little effort on my part to maintain the club. Win, win, win!

** Thank you, Sharon Bool, for your enthusiasm and inspiration throughout our years working together!

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