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Newtown MS club boosts recycling, readies students for high school


Eighth graders in the Newtown Middle School Environmental Action Club in Council Rock School District are teaching Bucks County residents about recycling in unique and powerful ways.

They recently placed as finalists in the Philadelphia Zoo’s annual Albert M. Greenfield UNLESS Contest designed to “create real solutions to environmental issues in their lives.”

They gathered a combined 182 pounds of plastic bags and batteries from their school community. And they launched a mobile app that creates “widespread awareness of recycling best practices.”

For their UNLESS Contest submission, the students presented their school-wide battery collection initiative. Once collected, the batteries found a new purpose when the group worked with technology teacher Eric Woehr to design a seed spacing planting tool.

“Batteries, when not recycled properly, can contaminate ecosystems, and water supply,” the students said in their presentation.

The group attached the batteries to pieces of wood which had holes bored into them. The evenly spaced batteries can then be pressed into the ground to make “even and efficient” holes for seed planting, according to the app.

Club leader Stephanie Lombardo, an Autistic Support Teacher at Newtown Middle School, said the students came up with the idea to “creatively re-purpose the batteries they collected.”

“The seed spacing planting tool allows (the user) to effectively plant garden seeds in perfectly straight rows for uniformed spacing of the seeds,” she added.

Andrea Mangold, Council Rock School District Communications Director, heard the class’ presentation and told the Herald she was “blown away by their depth of knowledge and passion for recycling.”

This project was intended to “create awareness about how to improve recycling efforts in the school community,” according to the students’ report.

The app, at, offers a Recycling Do’s and Don’ts page that instructs, “If you see something worth sharing, hit the button to copy our tip and source to send to a friend!”

The club started seven years ago, according to Lombardo. The only membership requirement is “willingness to work as a team to create positive environmental changes within our community,” she said.

The group works collaboratively to demonstrate leadership, she said.

The service-learning project allowed the students to apply the literacy and social skills they’ve learned throughout the school year, according to Lombardo.

Her students, who will be preparing to transition to Council Rock North next year, spoke glowingly about the club.

“I enjoyed working in this club feeling like nothing’s impossible and that we can help our community in many different ways,” said Cailin Stamate.

“We all learned that we have invaluable skills that we didn’t see in the beginning,” said Kaitlyn Voegele.

The students spoke not only of how the club helped them to positively impact the world around them but also how it allowed them to practice skills they’ll need in high school and beyond.

“It helped me improve my communication skills by making me talk to people I would never talked to before,” said Chase Caudill.

“I felt like I made a positive change in the environment and took on social/teamwork roles that I usually would not be comfortable with,” said Miya Knapp.

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