Going green for Girl Scout Troop’s Bronze Award
By Lou Fancher
Aiming for a Bronze Award, the members of Girl Scout Troop 33333 are green. Or golden, considering the accolades and attention piling up in recognition of a recycling and composting program the six Girl Scouts launched during the 2016-2017 school year at Hidden Valley Elementary school in Martinez.
At the 9th annual Contra Costa Leadership In Sustainability Awards gala in mid-September, the girls won the nonprofit’s Rising Star award. A video created by the troop intended for intra-district distribution is already reaching beyond the Mt. Diablo Unified School District.
To introduce the program, the troop wrote and performed an original stage presentation and created, directed and acted in the entertaining, instructive video used in classrooms and assemblies. Implementing the program, the girls served as lunchroom monitors, guiding students on proper disposal of trash, compost and recyclable materials.
A Bronze Award is sought by fourth- or fifth-grade students, so futuristic thinking had them training a leave-behind Green Team as most of the girls anticipated moving on to sixth grade at Valley View Middle School.
Troop members include Maya Barsetti, 8, and 11-year-olds Siena Barsetti, Madison Meehan, Amelia McCall, Emily Christopherson and Chloe Mercer.
Scout leader Kathleen Barsetti says the experience empowered the girls and bolstered their confidence in speaking to large audiences. But even before creating their sustainable, leave-your-mark project, they displayed skills necessary for success.
“All six are motivated, determined. They were great at teamwork,” she says. “I want the girls to know that they have great ideas, that they have leadership skills. I want this remarkable energy to not stop.”
Stopping the energy is unlikely. Asked about knowledge or skills they brought to the project, three members of the troop — Madison, Maya and Siena — mention making a complex program understandable and sustainable, being persuasive within their peer group, compromising without sacrificing purpose, aiming high, having command of videography, gardening and basic recycling principles.
Republic Services recycling coordinator Anne Baker worked with the girls on the video and skits. Assisting with script writing and rehearsals, she says the girls’ strong acting ability and the sacrifice of many lunch and after-school hours is admirable.
“I was impressed with their knowledge and passion in general about recycling and environmental science — quite refreshing, really. The girls have natural charisma and are liked by the other students. This definitely helped to get their fellow students to listen to them.”
Baker credits her colleague, Marie Knutson, the Martinez recycling coordinator, with administrative logistics, educating the Scouts about recycling and composting, and providing on-site monitoring in the cafeteria and on campus.
Shelley Carmichaell, the kitchen manager at Hidden Valley and then-Principal Richard Gorton were supportive and involved, says Baker. The biggest learning curve for the student body was getting them to understand what goes where.
“Recycling food seems to catch on somewhat easily, although some throw food still in plastic packaging in the bin. Regular recycling, of paper, plastic, metal and glass seems to be confusing.”
Madison agrees. She learned while developing the program that paper napkins could go into the compost with food and to remember to look at the number in the recycling triangle on plastics.
“You see how much plastic stuff you can put in the recycling, instead of throwing it away,” she says. “Now at home, I look for the symbol. I want to start a compost of food scraps. I tell my parents to turn off the lights. When there’s a breeze, we open windows and turn off the air conditioning.”
Maya, now in third grade, will remain at the school and continues to assist the Green Team. Her favorite part of the project was turning chore-like tasks like sorting garbage into fun, vibrant skits.
But most disturbing was one fact: “I learned that if we keep sending garbage to landfills, they’ll all be full in 30 years. We don’t know what we’ll do then, but we can’t keep throwing away garbage.”
Siena is most proud of the legacy left behind by Troop 33333.
“We’re not just throwing out our food. We’re helping our environment at schools. We’re making the school a better place.”
Asked if it was difficult to coordinate and work collaboratively with her fellow Scouts, she says, “It wasn’t hard because we all thought recycling was a good idea. We’re going to try to continue the troop. If we can, it would be fun to look back, see that what we did was good, then do something totally different that’s just as good.