Brooklyn Boro

Brooklyn students build borough’s longest plastic chain to draw attention to environmental crisis

Solicit Help from BP Adams

February 9, 2016 Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Students stand with teachers Jeanne Quarto, Brian Schoenfelder and Renee Kaiser, organizers of the project, along with Principal Jodie Cohen (left), Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams (center) and Madison Public Relations Officer Larry Melamed (foreground, thumbs up). Photos courtesy of James Madison High School
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Special Education students at Brooklyn’s James Madison High School built Brooklyn’s longest chain of plastic bags on record around the perimeter of the school building on Tuesday in an attempt to heighten awareness of an ever-growing crisis in our nation.

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A student in the environmental science class behind the initiative said that plastic “is strangling our planet.”  

Teachers Brian Schoenfelder, Jeanne Quarto and Renee Kaiser asked the students in their environmental science and botany classes to research an environmental issue and potential solutions. Students were also challenged with designing an event that could heighten awareness of the issue and prompt their peers to change a behavior that was adversely affecting our world. They immediately noticed the careless use and haphazard discarding and release of plastic bags into the environment.

Students researched the deleterious impacts of the discarding of plastics on the environment and recognized that young people contribute to this growing issue in a large way. They decided to create an event that could draw attention to this problem and offer a solution.  

As an outcome of their research, students will now begin collecting plastic bags for recycling and repurposing, and will distribute reusable fabric bags to their peers in hopes that they will shift this trend. In addition, students are currently researching potential partnerships with companies that recycle plastic. One such company is Trex, which has agreed to make James Madison High School an official recycling center. Trex uses plastic bags to make composite wood, out of which it produces benches for parks and public spaces.

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams came out to show his support and dug right in, helping students wind the chain around the school. He said that events like this are “so important, because they help kids shine and take pride” in their work and accomplishments.  

Principal Jodie Cohen agreed.  She said, “Every student has such great potential.  The secret is tapping into their unique skills or interests,” which, she proudly remarked, the organizers of this project have done so well.

At 10 a.m. on Tuesday, participating students exited the school building into the cold air, carrying chains of plastic bags that they collected and strung together over the last several weeks, and slowly wound an 800-meter chain around the perimeter of the school’s borders, between Bedford Avenue and East 27th Street, and Avenue P and Quentin Road. After the chain was complete, the remaining bags were piled up in front of the building, while the chain was ceremoniously cut, in symbolic reflection of their desire to “break the chain” of unsound practices and disregard for the health of our environment. The chain is the longest plastic chain constructed in Brooklyn’s history.

The event was held in conjunction with the school’s observance of “Respect for All” week, during which assemblies and other events are held to draw the students’ attention to values they should embrace.   


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