Teacher Goes Green in the Classroom

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COLUMBIA - A teacher at Smithton Middle School is trying to cutback on his carbon footprint and is getting help from his students in the process.

Jamie Scholten, a seventh grade social studies teacher, has gone completely paperless this school year by using laptops in the classroom. The computers are even used for tests, which has saved Scholten 40,000 sheets of paper this school year.

That amount may not seem like much when compared to the nearly 2 million pieces of paper Smithton Middle has used so far this school year, but Scholten said he hopes other teachers will catch on.

"They think 'Wow, how are you doing that?' But then the second thing is, I usually see them at the copy machine and then they have that teacher guilt in terms of 'Oh no! I'm making copies!," Scholten said.

"It teaches the kids what's going to happen when we actually have a job and how to use a computer, and that sort of stuff on taking notes on the computer instead of just always writing them down," said Tyler Barfknecht, one of Scholten's students.

Scholten said it is not just about preparing them for the future, but also teaching them to be aware of the environment.

"At this age they're starting to do this as a habit and a routine and they're not using paper, so imagine down the road they're used to not using paper, " Scholten said. " They'll automatically have that ingrained, it'll be a great habit for them to have started in the seventh grade on not using paper and helping save the environment."

Not only is Scholten saving paper, but his study hall class is saving cafeteria scraps. This year Scholten started a composting project with the class. So far, they have composted 600 pounds of salad bar scraps.

Scholten said composting has become more of a challenge because they are receiving up to 16 pounds of scraps a day. For composting to work, you have to have at least three times more "brown stuff", like dirt, soil, leaves, etc. than "green stuff", which are the scraps.

"We've kind of turned it into somewhat of a fertilizer. We're doing other little mini experiments," Scholten said. "I'm coming up with as many ideas as fast as I can to do something with this food so I know it's not going to the landfill."

Students said they enjoy the time they spend on the project because it allows them to go outdoors and contribute to the environment.

"I think it's a great impact on the environment, the green, I think it's going to help grow plants so that they can make oxygen," said Carter Green, one of Scholten's study hall students.

"I love that the class is 'Green.' I think that it teaches the children not be be wasteful and to respect nature. My son is much more aware about wasting paper than he was before," said Tricia Rackers, mother of one of Scholten's students. "We do recycle in our home and I am glad to see a teacher take so much pride and compassion in his class in helping the environment."

Scholten said he wants that compassion to rub off on his students.

"They can actually feel proud that hey look what I actually did, and look what I actually accomplished and it actually has an immediate impact on our world today," Scholten said.