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Editor's blog: Mummified squirrels, recycled tennies & more!

More confessions of a partially proficient parent

Every now and again, I get the bug to volunteer for a school field trip. Usually, months have passed since the last one so I have forgotten how they tend to suck up an entire day and how much energy children in bulk have.

Despite the adult exhaustion inherent to keeping an eye on 58 squirmy third-graders, I think it’s a great thing to volunteer for an occasional field trip. I volunteer for a half hour in the classroom each week helping with literacy – but it’s a different story when one is outside the familiar confines of a school. Regardless where you go, you get a different look at the dynamics of the class and of how your child fits into the mix (or doesn’t).

Since we missed the much anticipated trip to the state Capitol a few months ago due to illness, I felt extra pressure to make sure my daughter and I made the third grade spring trip to Boulder’s recycling centers. And, I actually am pretty interested in where the mountain of paper that accumulates weekly on our kitchen floor winds up.

A short drive is good!

There were some very good things about this trip. For starters, the three stops were a relatively short drive away. I

took a big risk and sat in the back of the bus, figuring any unsavory antics were sure to begin there. Actually, the kids were pretty good. There was a bus scheduling snafu so they had already spent a good 30 minutes or so playing on the playground, which helped ease the hyperactivity-quotient on the bus. If anyone caused a ruckus it was me when I got them singing a bunch of songs from their upcoming spring performance. “If I had a wagon I would go to Colorado… where a man can walk a mile high!” (or something like that). My job became quieting them down when we approached railroad crossings.

Our first stop was CHaRM, the Center for Hard-to-Recycle Materials. Did you know there is a place to get rid of old cooking oil (to be transformed into bio-diesel fuel); used athletic shoes; big plastic toys, such as Big Wheels; fire extinguishers; computers; toilets; and even – this is Boulder, after all – used yoga mats?

Mummified squirrel saves the day

Next stop was ReSource. This is a place where contractors or homeowners can drop off door frames, doors, cabinetry, bathroom fixtures (you name it) so they can be used by someone else. We had excellent tour guides at all stops. But a special thanks goes out to T. Mark Bowen, a ReSource employee who shares his positive outlook despite two battles with cancer and his mobile home burning down. He also mesmerized the kids with a mummified squirrel workers found in a stove pipe and a glass vial (also found in something dropped off at the center) filled with a clear liquid firefighters used to use to extinguish fires by sucking oxygen out of the air. I, for one, was really glad that Bowen had such a steady hand.

Final stop was Eco-Cycle. Another scheduling mishap resulted in the kids having to eat outside – but it was nice out, so that was OK. We all learned so much at this stop. Did you know you shouldn’t put shredded – or small bits of paper – in recycling? Save ‘em for compost. I also learned that in Boulder you actually can leave the tops on plastic bottles (#1 or 2) and we can even recycle other types of plastic containers – just not the see-through kind that all fruits and veggies come in at Costco, for instance. (I plan to contact Costco about this!) We use the plastic containers bulk apples come in to mix paint, but too much of it ends up in the trash.

The kids were fascinated by the big trucks pushing piles of recyclable waste into mountains that would fall into a crack in the floor with a conveyor belt at the bottom to be transported into the expansive sorting area. Machines and humans sorted everything into its proper place. A cool magnet sucked cans out of one waste stream. We ended the visit watching this video about single stream recycling.

It was a good day. Parents, if you can swing one day or afternoon during the school year, join your kid on a field trip. It’s fun! You will learn something, too.

And, who can possible resist seeing a mummified squirrel?

About our First Person series:

First Person is where Chalkbeat features personal essays by educators, students, parents, and others trying to improve public education. Read our submission guidelines here.

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