Castle Rock Middle School kicked off a recycling campaign Tuesday that attracted the attention of Sen. Max Baucus, Gov Brian Schweitzer and Mayor Ron Tussing.
"We've got one planet, just one planet," Schweitzer said, challenging the middle-schoolers to develop a more sustainable energy system.
He added that over the past 50 years, the United States has created a throwaway society, knowing it can't be sustained. "It's like we're driving a pickup truck at 60 mph toward a cliff, and we're not slowing down," Schweitzer said. "We are asking you to be the scientists and engineers to change this society."
About 15 students at the school have started a recycling club that is collecting glass, cardboard, plastic bags and bottles from students.
"Castle Rock is taking the lead in recycling," Schweitzer said. "The most important energy is the energy you don't use, and this project is going to decrease energy. This is good for Montana's economy, the community and the planet."
Baucus, a Democrat, met some of the Castle Rock students during their trip to Washington, D.C., and told the school in a video that he's proud of them for taking such a large step.
"Starting this program is a great way to help the community and the school, and it will save energy and resources," he said in the video.
The recycling project is part of a schoolwide effort to introduce conservation and eco-friendly principles in the curriculum.
"I can't tell you how proud of you I am," Principal Shaun Harrington told his students. "Castle Rock has heart, and I'm so proud of you today. The school district has a jewel in the Heights, and that's Castle Rock."
Harrington said the school science and English programs have been incorporating "Go Green" lessons in their classes.
"I feel like it's a part of their education," Harrington said. "We need to be steering the kids in the direction to become environmentally conscious. Montana has been behind in that effort, and what teachers and kids have done is a shift toward that change."
Harrington said the community support has been awesome. Heights-area businesses and doctors are helping pay for the cost of recycling and promoting the Go Green campaign at the school.
"They have been so good to us," Harrington said.
Teachers Erin Curnow, Megan Parish and Randy Chase organized the recycling club. But, Curnow said the students are the ones who came up with the idea and are doing the work.
The students were surprised when Kate Heyneman with the Homer and Mildred Scott Foundation, which donated $840 toward their recycling startup costs, donated another $250 to the club and $250 to the school band, which performed during the assembly.
Heyneman told the students to take the initiative to become more environmentally conscious and get active in the recycling campaign at school and at home.
Tussing encouraged the students to urge their City Council members to start glass recycling in the city and sang a song to the tune of "This Land is Your Land" to share his environmentally friendly message to keep the Big Sky blue.
"If you guys do me a favor and talk to those council members about recycling glass, I promise I won't come back and sing," he joked.
Contact Luella Brien at email@example.com or 657-1232.