By Kathryn M. Miller
If you have driven along Missouri Avenue from 7th Street to 16th Street in the past 10 years, you may have seen a group of students hard at work picking up trash. Those dedicated students are the Madison No. 1 Middle School Environmental Club, under the guidance of sixth grade Science teacher Lisa Vaaler.
Vaaler, who has been teaching at Madison No. 1 for 21 years, mostly in sixth grade Science, is the advisor and founder of the Environmental Club.
“I started the Environmental Club after we moved into the new building of our school, about 14 years ago,” Vaaler shared. “Our club has done so many activities over the years.”
In addition to the three to four clean-ups per year on their section of Missouri Road through the Adopt-a-Street program, the fifth through eighth grade Environmental Club members started a recycling program on campus through the City of Phoenix.
“Every classroom has a blue bin for recycling, and we have large blue bins behind the school,” Vaaler shared.
They also recycle plastic bags and bottles to help raise awareness on campus about how plastic is detrimental to the environment and conduct campus clean-ups. The club also participated in a program for a while through Terracycle, which collected non-recyclable pre-consumer and post-consumer waste with lunch and home items collected.
Vaaler shared that the group has taken field trips to recycling plants as well as the Scottsdale Community College CNUW program (Center for Native & Urban Wildlife) — a program that she helped start 20-plus years ago as a student at SCC.
“It teaches the kids about biodiversity and native species/plants,” the teacher shared, adding that an Earth Day outing for the group is in the planning stages.
While the past few years have been a challenge due to COVID, Vaaler says that she is grateful that they are finally once again able to get out and do more group activities. And residents will once again see the industrious students out cleaning up their adopted patch of Phoenix roadway.