A second-grade teacher at Marysville's Edgewood Elementary School took a walk with her students and stumbled into a lesson in empowerment she didn't plan on.
Lindsey Profera's class met seven firefighters May 22 at Aldersgate Park to clean up trash. The children devised the idea after an outing in early May.
"The students are learning about plants, animals and people and how they change the environment. We did a nature walk around Edgewood, but there weren't many animals to see," Profera said.
So she took the 23 students to nearby Aldersgate Park to observe animals in their natural habitat.
"But when we got here, the students said there weren't many animals and they noticed a lot of trash," she said.
Profera started brainstorming with her students about how they could fix the situation.
"They decided they wanted to ask people for help to clean up the park to bring the plants and animals back," Profera said.
The students wrote letters to the Marysville fire and police departments, Mayor John Gore and Lane Stillings, the city's superintendent of parks and grounds. They asked if "no littering" signs could be posted and if they could borrow equipment to clean up the area.
Faith Garrison, 8, said the plan was simple.
"We wanted to come back and make a change," she said. "We came back and did that."
On cleanup day, students paired off with firefighters. Armed with trash bags and gloves, they marched off on a hunt for litter.
"We found a bunch. They passed a bunch of it, and I can already see some more over there," Garrison said, pointing across the pond.
"I think it's terrible that they identified a need that adults can't identify. But this speaks well of our future, doesn't it, that these kids take an interest and want to do something," Gore said. "I think that says a lot for our future."
Ashlee Bringle, 8, said she felt good about the effort and wants others to take a cue from her class.
"I want them to stop littering and help the environment," she said.
Profera said students worried that once they cleaned the area, people would not be aware and would continue to litter.
Gore said the city is looking into posting "no littering" signs at not only Aldersgate, but also other city parks.
"One thing we talked about is sometimes kids are underestimated. It's not only shown them that kids can work hard and make a change, but it's given them a sense of pride and they are so excited and so thrilled to help the community," Profera said.
This is Profera's first year teaching in Marysville, but it's not the first time one of her classes has been motivated to effect change.
In 2012, her fourth-grade students at Monterey Elementary School in the South-Western City School District were learning about government and how bills become laws. Students noticed cars were blocking school buses and wrote a letter to Grove City asking for "no parking" signs at a crosswalk by the school. The city listened and posted them.
"My goal as a teacher is to show the kids that, just because you're 10 or 8, that you can (still) make a change," Profera said. "They've made a lot of change in the community to make it better."