Cleanup collaboration Rotary clubs promote environmental education for STUDENTS

By Julie Gorham

Tuesday, April 25, 2017 at 3:17 pm

Lecanto Primary School students recently got an interactive lesson on saving the Earth. About 140 third-graders and their teachers scurried to round up gobs of windblown trash scattering across

Lecanto Community Park on Friday, April 21 — left there on purpose by the folks of the Sugarmill Woods Rotary and Kings Bay Rotary.

Sugarmill Woods and Kings Bay Rotarians made the mess to teach a lesson about trash, through an event hallmarked as One Bag at a Time.

Kings Bay Rotary President Glenn Parker said the event is one way the Rotary clubs of Citrus County can spread a message that will make a longlasting impression in young kids’ minds — by littering and subsequently cleaning up.

“This is an environmental literacy project to get young people into learning not to throw recyclables on the ground, and it starts from the ground up,” Parker said. “The idea is to do what all of Europe does, which is get rid of the plastic bags by using a cloth bag.”

To make the message interesting for Citrus County 9-year-olds, all six clubs designed special Earth Day canvas bags that could be colored in order to make it a personal effort for each student.

“We gave each kid a canvas bag to color to use these bags instead of plastic bags. By having them personalize it, it made it harder to get rid of and more special,” Sugarmill Woods Rotary President-elect Janis Stacey said. “We also teach that animals can choke on plastic bags and it takes 100 years for one (bag) to dissolve.”

For years, Kings Bay Rotary Club has been holding the event and now all six Rotary clubs are following suit with a different school each year to keep the effort growing.

Parker said in Vermont, from where he moved, schoolchildren have been doing this for the past 45 years.

“If I dropped a gum wrapper on the ground my granddaughter would say ‘poppa no,’” Parker said. “It really does work; it just has to work from the ground up.”

While students were on one mission to pick up every shred of flying paper, they also had a surprise as the Rotarians previously scattered pennies for the team to collect, while adding six different stations to rotate around, each focusing on an environmental issue.

“We spread out pennies so they can win an award for their group,” Stacey said. “After the kids clean up the park, there are fun activities to do such as golfing, bowling, globe relay, along with lunch by Oysters.”

Students ran tirelessly around the park to find all the trash.

“We are making this world a better place,” said a student from Mary Leonard’s third-grade class, Madison Renfroe.

While Caleb Learn wasn’t looking anywhere for coins, he had his eyes peeled on the ground for waste.

“We have to pick it up, so it doesn’t spread,” Learn said, as he quickly rushed to his team leader.

The Sugarmill Woods Rotary is the youngest Rotary Club in the county, but they work with Lecanto Primary every year while also helping the local Boys & Girls Clubs.

“We have 31 members; we are small but mighty,” Stacey said. “All the money we make, we put back into the community — from the Boys & Girls Club Robotics Lab, to purchasing shoes for children who are in need at Lecanto Primary, to giving dictionaries to every third student at Lecanto Primary.”

Contact Chronicle reporter Julie Gorham at 352-563-3236 or

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