A Look Back

By Noelle Herring

I made a timeline looking back at my experiences during ZWAP!.

A little background info to start off: the main goal of my service for the past 4 and a half months has been to educate the majority of the 5th grade population in the Missoula County area. ZWAP! stands for Zero Waste Ambassadors Program. In this program the students learn about the things we buy and use, how those things are made and transported, how they are then used and disposed of, and how that entire process negatively affects on our planet. In short, the materialistic behavior that we have grown so accustomed to is causing a lot of trouble for people, animals, and the environment. It’s more than just teaching kids about the consequences of their actions. It’s about teaching mindfulness. We (even as 5th graders) can be impactful with our actions.

I spent the beginning of February to mid-June going to classrooms to perform an hour long ZWAP! lesson as well as facilitating a follow up 3 hour long ZWAP! field trip at my host site of Home ReSource. That’s 4 hours spent in total with each class. There were 31 classes with an average of 24 students per class. The following is a journal-like recount of my thoughts and experiences throughout the course of the ZWAP! season.

February 1st, 2019

ZWAP officially begins. I’ve been reading over the talking script, watching the video recordings from the previous year, and have practiced on a few friends. I’m overwhelmed by how much I have to memorize. I’m nervous about not doing a good job. At least my supervisor is doing the first one today so all I have to do is watch. I know that by next week it will be smooth sailing…it’s just the anticipation that is killing me right now. 

February 8th, 2019

I’ve gotten through my first week of classroom lessons. The first few were a little bumpy, but overall I’m feeling much more confident. I’m enjoying interacting with the students and am starting to think of witty things to say to maintain their interest.

February 28th, 2019

Field Trips were scheduled to start two days ago but the massive amount of snowfall has kept that from happening. The bonus field trips we planned for some of the classes were also cancelled. Such a stressful time. I’m scrambling to reschedule the missed trips, while also freaking out about having to lead the main field trips soon. Again my supervisor is graciously leading the first few so that I have time to get comfortable with the flow of things. I still can’t help from being super nervous…mainly because I’ve done much less preparation for field trips in comparison to the classroom lessons. Can’t wait to get the hang of things so I can relieve some of this pent-up anxiousness. At least I get a week long break before the next one!

March 22nd, 2019

The first phase of classroom lessons and field trips is behind me. I’m feeling really good about my delivery of the content and hardly need the script anymore. But it’s safe to say I’m already getting tired of repeating the same lesson over and over again. And doing a field trip every single day for the past 2 weeks has been exhausting. My voice isn’t made for talking over a bunch of loud 5th graders…but YAY for the next 2 weeks being nearly ZWAP! free. A much needed break.

April 25th, 2019

Bllaaagghh. SO many classroom lessons. The majority are behind me now, but I’m feeling pretty burnt out at this point. Secretly dreading the next month of field trips, but I don’t want to go into it with a bad attitude. Gotta stay positive! You are making a difference in the lives of the youth! Keep up the good work! (Me giving myself a pep-talk.)

May 1st, 2019

Went with a class on a field trip to the landfill. It was very inspiring and has given me a new wave of energy for the upcoming field trips. The students really seemed to be affected by the experience and I think it would be a good addition to talk about during the main field trips.

May 31st, 2019

I’m in the home stretch! But wow, I am sick of it. It’s not that I dislike teaching kids how to be ambassadors for zero waste- I love that part! It’s honestly just the constant repetition that’s got me slowly decaying on the inside. I am so grateful to be part of this program, and so I feel guilty for having these negative feelings. Overall I’d say there are many more positives than negatives. I love making the students laugh and grabbing their attention with facts that make them go, “wooooah.” The best part is when they seem genuinely interested in the discussions and state how much they want to make a difference. It really is such a rewarding experience getting to inspire and empower the future generation to want to save the world.

June 12th, 2019

I’M DONE! Finished the final ZWAP! today. Such a wash of relief. It feels like I just took my last final in college and now I don’t know what to do with myself. Hard to believe 4 and a half months have gone by! It’s like I have completed a rite of passage. Feeling tired but accomplished. So ready for a vacation.

Wildfire in the City
Looking Forward

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