BERWYN — Picture this: Students with vacant eyes shambling through the litter-strewn halls, with an uncontrollable urge to cast off iPads, books and eating utensils that combine the use of a spoon and fork.
"Sporkitis" can happen to you.
Students at South Berwyn's School District 100 Heritage Middle School are taking a stand against disposables, and they're starting in the cafeteria. Last year sixth-grade science teacher Laura Stamp applied for and received a $2,500 grant from the Green Global Foundation to help buy a dishwasher for the school and eliminate the need for the disposable "spork."
Stamp said the district spends about $9,000 a year on the disposable plastic sporks and trash removal. Meanwhile, the cost to purchase and install an industrial dishwasher, metal flatware and storage for the flatware is anticipated at $8,000.
The grant is providing seed money, but the Heritage Earth Action Team, or HEAT, is busy raising funds to reach the $8,000 goal.
Students make up the membership of HEAT, led by Stamp. The club's foundation is rooted in environmental practices.
Heritage School was one of only five schools in the U.S. to receive the grant.
Replacing the sporks with an industrial dishwasher and metal forks, Stamp said, not only saves money, "but also sets a tone for our students to be aware of the issues of sustainability and reuse."
"When they see us change from plastic to metal, they'll understand the need to change because this overuse of disposables just isn't making it," Stamp said. "You drive down (Interstate) 290 and the sides of the highway are just covered in trash, plastic bottles and plastic bags, and it wasn't like that 15 years ago."
To drive home the point, the students of HEAT produced an eight-minute movie called "Sporktagion," the story of a virus called "sporkitis" that infects the school and compels students to throw everything away. The film was entered into the One Earth Our Earth Film Festival in Oak Park and took first place in the middle school category.
Eighth-graders Amanda Martinez and Emily Barnes starred in the film as heroes, those who figured out it was the "sporkitis" virus behind the rampant desire to throw stuff away. They also helped in coming up with ideas for the script.
Both girls said they were on board with the idea of switching disposables with reusables before the film was even made.
"I always tried to help the environment and I've been with HEAT for three years," Amanda said. "But I think the film puts it in a way so you could understand what's going on. I hope people will understand and try to do better."
Emily, too, said she was no stranger to the need to reuse.
"I already knew it was bad but it made me think more about how bad it was if we didn't do something about it," she said.
Classmate Denise Martin played one of the infected students and also helped with script ideas. She said she and her fellow HEAT members all will learn something from the experience.
"I personally think that everyone in the club is going to come away with a lot of information," she said.
Also involved in the film was Shannon Chapin, editor, Abby Steinhaus, Elizabeth De Loera and Reba Reyes.
Stamp said while HEAT's members are aware of the challenge presented by mountains of disposables, she plans to show the entire school the film in the near future.
"With the greater population of the school, they're just starting to get it," she said.
About the Green Global Foundation
The Green Global Foundation is a non-profit and non-political global platform committed to improving livelihoods in developing countries through strong scientific and effective partnership activities. It creates, shares and uses knowledge and technologies to expand the window of researchers from different global communities to explore their findings. For information, visit ggfagro.com.