Return to Headlines

NMS Environmental Club named Plastic-Free Philly Champs

The Northley Middle School Environmental Club thought they were simply taking a field trip to The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University as an extension of the work they had accomplished this school year.  Instead, the students were welcomed as champions.  Upon arrival, students were gathered together and informed that they were selected from the 1200 students and 15 schools across the region who took the Plastic-free Philly Champions challenge that included four weekly, super-fun activities for students, with lessons on clean water and how plastics can affect our health and environment. 

Mr. Siegel, Ms. Sayer, Mr. Biordi and a group of parent volunteers supported the project centered on hydration, storm drainage, clean water, and the impact of plastics.  Activities included brainstorming ideas and solutions to some of the environmental issues facing our region and world.  Mr. Siegel was thrilled with Northley's recognition, but also pleased with the growth he witnessed during the process.

"Students need to be educated on the importance of caring for our planet, caring for each other, and getting involved in something bigger than themselves," said Siegel.  "They need leadership skills and a sense of accomplishment and pride, and I think they gained all of this with participation in this project."

The program, sponsored by The Academy, as well as by the Philadelphia Water Department, NBD10/Telemundo and Drexel’s College of Nursing and Health Professions Community Wellness, offered an opportunity for students to think deeper about the impact of our actions on the environment with video lessons, a written lesson plan, and hands-on activities.  Students entered their work and photographs to show their accomplishment. 

Mariah Romaninsky, Director of Education , Learning and Development at Drexel was impressed not only by the Northley Environmental Club's enthusiasm for the project, but the questions they asked when visiting the Academy:

"The students and teachers were a pleasure to have at the museum," she said.  "Their interest and commitment to the project was evident from the questions they asked, to the pride they took in wearing their plastic Free Philly Champions shirts while exploring the dinosaurs and dioramas. They are true Champions in every sense of the word."

The Plastic-free Philly Champions were also treated to a news report on NBC10 that included interviews of some of the Northley students.  Myla Leon, a seventh grade student in the club, shared that she had learned about the microplastics in almost every water source, while sixth grade student Matthew Shaw shared his concerns about other pollutants that can harm us all.

"Do everything you can," he explained, "even if it seems like you aren't doing much.  You are still making a difference."

Indeed, Mr. Siegel believes the Northley students are well-equipped to speak to others about the dangers of plastics, littering, storm drainage pollution, clean water and hydration.  It has not been merely a learning exercise, however.   Mr. Siegel has compelled his students to do even more.

Service projects have included visits to Linvilla Orchards, Bellevue State Park, Longwood Gardens and Newlin Grist Mill this year.  Visits to Ridley Creek State Park, Bellevue State Park again, Rushton Woods Preserve, Ashland Nature Center, and the Wilmington Riverfront/Dupont Environmental Education Center have included clean-up projects as well.   

Northley students clearly are going above and beyond with the information they've learned to make a difference.  Romaninsky notes that even the smallest efforts matter.

"It takes 450 years for one plastic bottle to disintegrate.  You can make a difference with one simple change: carry and use a reusable water bottle.  This one change can saved hundreds of plastic water bottles a year from ending up in landfills and waterways." 

Siegel concurs.

"We will continue to work hard to educate, advocate and promote environmentally-safe practices to everyone we know," he said.  "We plan to focus more lessons and advocacy/education on this topic next year and, of course, defend our title."