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Tzu Chi Education Team Plants Seeds of a Brighter Future at Shelyn Elementary School

December 29, 2022
In the classroom, the students enthusiastically participated in the teacher's questions. Photo/Ziwen Wang

Written by Ziwen Wang
Translated by H.B. Qin
Edited by Andrea Barkley

“Today, I’m going to tell you a magic story about these two things,” said Xumu Huang as he held a discarded bottle in one hand and a Tzu Chi scarf in the other. Twenty-four students listened to every word he said with curiosity.

At the invitation of Shelyn Elementary School in Rowland Heights, California, on December 7, 2022, the Tzu Chi USA education team visited Shelyn Elementary School’s Recycle Club. Xumu Huang, as the primary teacher, brought a fun and inspiring environmental education lesson to the young students. He taught them about the benefits of recycling through a step-by-step demonstration and engaging interaction.

Waste to Gold, Gold to Love

Xumu Huang and Kathy Blair, 6th grade class instructor at Shelyn Elementary School. photo/Ziwen Wang
A group photo of some of the Tzu Chi USA education team members who participated in the environmental education class. Photo/Ziwen Wang

The invitation was originated by a Tzu Ching alumni, Zhongzang Zou, who noticed that Kathy Blair, the sixth-grade teacher at Shelyn Elementary School and whose class he serves, established a Recycle Club. Twice a month, she would organize the students to voluntarily recycle plastic bottles and aluminum cans. Zhongzang Zou invited the Tzu Chi education team to the school to teach the students about the importance of environmental protection and to facilitate more exchanges between Tzu Chi and the public schools.

Through the in-class lecture, the students were shocked by the reality that it takes 450 years to dissolve the more than 20 billion plastic products used in the United States each year. Thinking about the more and more environmental disasters and pollution, the students were inspired by the teacher to reflect on what they could do to make a difference. After the teacher told the “Waste to Gold, Gold to Love” story of Tzu Chi’s use of technology to turn discarded plastic bottles into warm eco-friendly scarves and blankets that can be given to people in need during international disaster relief, the students were very impressed.

Because of the Tzu Chi program, I learned we could turn plastic into blankets and scarves. I'm keeping in mind our teacher's slogan: "Waste to Gold, Gold to Love." From now on, I will use eco-friendly bottles instead of disposable ones.

Tzu Chi volunteers give out prizes to students. Photo/Ziwen Wang

Before the end of the class, Xumu Huang conducted a quiz with prizes. The students who got the correct answers received an eco-friendly scarf as a prize. All students participated enthusiastically, and the class ended in a very joyful atmosphere.

Seeds of Caring Are Sprouting

Kathy Blair shared with the Tzu Chi education team that the students who had attended the class arrived the following day eager to share what they had learned with their classmates. The seeds of caring for the Earth are spreading and sprouting in more students’ hearts.

The Recycle Club has been established for about 15 years and has been very successful. And the arrival of the Tzu Chi education team volunteers encouraged the children even more. “The students listened very carefully and got a lot out of it,” said Blair, “I also learned something!”

The children learned about ways of protecting the environment they had never heard of before. Xumu Huang said, “I told the children that they should not let go of what they learned from the lecture. Instead, they should go home and share the content with the people around them. I saw the children nodding and even mimicking what I showed them. I was delighted to see that it meant they remembered what was shared and remembered after class.”

I am grateful for this opportunity. For the students at Shelyn Elementary School, recycling is just the first step. I hope they will have more opportunities to grow with Tzu Chi.

The impact of a single class may be limited. Still, the Tzu Chi education volunteers sow the seeds little by little. Through their commitment, they make the concept of environmental protection accessible to young people.

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