Haunted hike at Lisbon Central teaches recycling message

By Janice Steinhagen - Staff Writer
Lisbon - posted Tue., Nov. 8, 2011
(L-r) Eighth-graders Taylor Smith and Rebecca Weigel act out their pirate roles on the 'haunted' nature trail. Contributed photos by Stephen Brown. - Contributed Photo

Halloween, with all its costumes-and-candy distractions, can turn an elementary school upside down for a day or two. But Lisbon Central School science teacher Stephen Brown and his Environmental Symposium students have found a way to turn distraction into a learning experience for their younger peers.

Brown’s seventh- and eighth-grade students use the nature trail on the school grounds as the setting for a yearly “haunted hike” designed to raise awareness about environmental issues. The theme changes every year; this year, students came up with a pirate scenario, in which hike participants had to teach the “polluting pirates” how to be more “green.”

“We’re promoting the use of our recycling containers,” said Brown. “Every teacher and class is going to get some recyclables to collect along the way.”

At various stops along the trail, younger kids helped a “pirate” in a recycling-bin “crow’s nest” scout for garbage. After enjoying a snack of apples along the trail, they got to try “target practice” by hurling the cores through holes in a mock pirate ship, into a composting bin.

At yet another stop along the trail, children learned to sing a “recycling chantey.”

“We started planning about the beginning of the year,” said Alyssa, one of Brown’s students. She takes part in the Environmental Symposium, which meets four days each week, and in the school’s Environmental Club, which meets on Mondays.

Students from both groups plan the haunted trail with fun activities that carry a message, she said. “Every year, it’s a different Halloween theme,” she said. Considering how popular the recent “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies have been, “we thought pirates could be a fun way to teach younger kids how to be green, but to have fun with Halloween, too.”

Alyssa said the school encourages recycling of juice pouches and chip bags with green “alligator” bins in the gym and cafeteria.

Brown said that food leftovers, like the apple cores, are collected for composting, too. Brown, a veteran seventh- and eighth-grade science teacher of 24 years, first blazed the Newent Woods Heritage Trail on the school grounds with his science students years ago. “We were hoping teachers would use it as an outdoor classroom,” he said. The idea for the haunted hike was first tried nine years ago, and now it’s become a school tradition.

His current crop of students had a tall order ahead of them this year. They worked, with adult help, to clear the trail, which had suffered fallen trees and other damage from tropical storm Irene back in August. But then, the freak Oct. 29 snowstorm necessitated postponing the trail hike until the Friday after Halloween, when conditions were safer.

He said that all students from grades one through six participate in the hike. “It gets the kids outside to release their energy” – something they have in abundance around Halloween, he said.

Brown said that all the ideas, from the theme to the specific recycling-related activities, all come from his students. “They’re the ones who really have the theme down,” he said.

Let us know what you think!
Please be as specific as possible.
Include your name and email if you would like a response back.
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Enter the code without spaces and pay attention to upper/lower case.