Follow the recycling road

Canfield Village Middle School students used the ‘Wizard of Oz’ theme for their program

By Peter H. Milliken


An award- winning recycling program at Canfield Village Middle School combines creativity, fundraising, mathematics and environmental education.

The school took first place in the Mahoning County Recycling Division’s Cash-for-Cans program from 2008 through 2011.

It also has won two national U.S. Conference of Mayors awards for the city for its innovative recycling efforts, second place two years ago and first place last year.

Since Vickie Latimer, a math teacher, began coordinating the program in 2007, the school has collected 15,261 pounds of aluminum beverage cans and raised $8,583 from scrapyard sales of the cans toward eventual construction of a running track behind the school.

The aluminum cans now sell for 55 cents a pound, said Peg Flynn, the recycling division’s environmental educator.

The county’s program, which is observing its 20th anniversary this year, teaches students that keeping cans out of landfills and recycling them reduces the need for aluminum mining which destroys South American tropical-rain forests, Flynn said.

“We want to encourage the students to recycle at home and at school and, by doing the Cash for Cans, it gets them into the motivation to recycle,” Flynn said. “I hope they learn that you shouldn’t waste your natural resources.”

“We started to raise $25,000 to build a track because all we have in the back is mud and dirt,” Latimer said.

Latimer said her students learn to graph the fluctuating price per pound the scrap yard pays for the aluminum cans the students collect.

The students are promoting the recycling program with a series of student-made signs in front of the school that use a “Wizard of Oz” theme and urge the community to “Follow the yellow can trail to recycling.”

Bailey Brocker, a seventh-grader, made crayon drawings of the Yellow Brick Road and flying monkeys and other “Wizard of Oz” characters on the windows of Latimer’s classroom.

“Aluminum’s one of the most-important things to recycle because you get it out of the rain forest, so it saves trees and the aluminum, too,” Bailey said of recycling the metal. “The aluminum comes from underneath the rain forest, so, to get it, you have to cut down all the trees,” she said of the mining process.

Amid the signs outside the school are life-size dolls of “Wizard of Oz” characters including Dorothy, the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion, the Scarecrow and good and bad witches. Empty aluminum cans fill a giant ruby-red slipper at the school entrance.

Other signs say: “Be a courageous recycler,” and “Don’t be wicked. Recycle.”

“Recycling is a fun thing to do to help out with the environment,” said Vincent Haniford, another seventh-grader, who worked on the dolls outside the building.

A banner hanging over the school’s main entrance proclaims: “Somewhere over the rainbow, recycling makes dreams come true. We can be Canfield, the Emerald City. It’s all up to you.”

So far this year, with three weeks left in this school year’s aluminum-can drive, Village Middle School is in third place behind Western Reserve and Damascus elementary schools, which are in first and second place, respectively.

Latimer says that’s because she previously taught sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders, but now teaches only seventh- graders, so she doesn’t have access this year to as broad a spectrum of students as she previously did.

More like this from

Subscribe Today

Sign up for our email newsletter to receive daily news.

Want more? Click here to subscribe to either the Print or Digital Editions.