Earth Day Activities Empower Students to Help Less Fortunate, Get Creative

Two National Heritage Academies schools in Colorado and Michigan provide opportunities for students to get hands-on with recycling projects.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich., April 21, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — The focus of Earth Day often has to do with cleanup and beautification, but students at two National Heritage Academies schools have been given very different directives. Both of which are being embraced with youthful enthusiasm.

Students at Walker Charter Academy are collecting used plastic bags to be made into sleeping mats for the homeless. The drive behind this project started with Achievement and Behavior Specialist Christa Schwarz and is being used to teach students from kindergarten through eighth grade about two major issues in the country: caring for the earth and the homeless.

“We’re not just teaching academics, we’re teaching Moral Focus, and we’re teaching them to be part of society and to better society, that’s what we want,” Schwarz said. “We want to teach the kids about empathy.”

Walker Charter Academy’s Christa Schwarz:

“I love tackling projects where kids feel like they’re making a difference. I want to empower them to believe they can make a difference.”

Students have collected more than 3,000 plastic bags, which will be delivered to a West Michigan woman who weaves them into thick, waterproof mats to help improve the quality of life for Michigan’s homeless population.

“I think the younger kids understand they’re doing something for the earth, but the older kids definitely get it,” she said. “I love tackling projects where kids feel like they’re making a difference. I want to empower them to believe they can make a difference. Yes, we have a lot of problems in the world, and they’re big problems, but we can all do something about them, especially when we band together.”

Nearly 1,200 miles away at Mountain View Charter Academy in Colorado Springs, students are hard at work on a project blending creativity, personal expression, and recyclables.

National Heritage Academies operates 99 schools in nine states. Use our school finder to locate one near you: NHA School Finder.

Art Teacher Layne Waters has challenged her kindergarten through seventh grade students to create sculptures but only from what they’ve discarded.

“I actually did this sculpture contest when I was in elementary school, and I remember it so vividly,” Waters said. “I’m hoping students will start to see things that normally get thrown away as new materials to make art with. I hope that inspires and rejuvenates them when they’re creating. It’s also been good for us all to learn more about what can and cannot be recycled.”

Students can use glue and paint to aid in their creative process but must focus on the daily use items they sort out for the recycle bin.

“They’ve been talking about recycling a lot more since this project started,” she said. “My third through middle school students are constantly reminding their peers ‘don’t put that in there, that can’t be recycled’ or ‘not in the trash, throw that in the recycling bin!’ So that’s been really cool just to hear all the chatter and the excitement around this, it’s awesome.”

Teaching students to empathize with others and create art from used materials fits well into the nine Moral Focus virtues taught at National Heritage Academies’ network of schools.

Want to learn more about those virtues and other important values taught at schools like Walker Charter Academy and Mountain View Academy? Visit

About National Heritage Academies:
National Heritage Academies (NHA) is a network of 99 tuition-free, public charter schools across nine states, serving more than 65,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade. For more information, visit

SOURCE National Heritage Academies

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