It was a rather cold 34 degrees with a wind chill of 26 degrees when I decided to take a short walk in my neighborhood.  My intention was to lend a small hand on this MLK Day of Service 2023 to help clean the environment.  It was a very brief 45 minute, 6 tenths of a mile walk that by the end my hands became painfully chilled to the bone.  I thought of a few things on this little walk.


Along my route which took me on a road that hugged an inlet to the Peconic Bay that is close by to my home I began to pick up garbage, mostly beer cans, bottles, cigarette packages and lots of plastic. I thought about how we must address many civic-minded goals for the students within our schools.  It occurred to me that over time, the 30-40 pounds of rubbish would potentially enter the waterways, joining other entry points for an expanded impact of plastic and other pollutants. While unlikely to become part of The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the ongoing need to promote a clean environment for the long term sustainability of our food sources and overall well being of all communities remains an important goal.


How did this garbage land on the side of the road, as it does along thousands of miles of roads throughout America?  Who among us are the ones who could care less about the environmental and aesthetic negative impact of litter and garbage along the roadside?  Without any hard data it is possible to imagine that adolescents and young adults might make up a larger share of this group of people.


I recall as a child those public service announcements encouraging us to Keep America Beautiful. It should be no surprise that litter and the broader disrespect for the environment continues to be a problem for many communities.  Clearly there are many, many larger climate related environmental problems that need our attention.  Believing in the phrase, “think globally, and act locally” I am, however, proposing that we begin here – close to home in all school communities.


I’m of the belief that “civic-mindedness” starts in elementary school.  The habits of mind, and values that a child takes into adolescence and adulthood are nurtured and fostered during their early years of schooling and certainly within the home.  To whatever degree “clean-up days” and special events designed to teach children about the need to respect one another, our communities and the larger environment have had a positive impact, it seems to me that more effort and attention is needed.

Community Service Learning should not be an “add-on” to the objectives of any school community. It must be woven into the daily and weekly learning process.  This is how we engender such a view of our world and our responsibilities wherever we reside.  It should not be relegated to “special assembly programs.”  Rather, it should be part and parcel to the learning as a means to achieve objectives in art, history, math, science and writing.  Let us continue to Keep America and the world a beautiful place.

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