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'Training the next generation': Sumter students receive free litter lesson kits to learn about keeping their community clean

Litter Control Officer Glenn Button is delivering interactive litter lesson kits to 30 schools - both public and private - throughout Sumter to educate students.

SUMTER, S.C. — Students at 30 different public and private schools throughout Sumter are receiving free litter lesson kits. They can build environments in these boxes, which will teach them about pollution and recycling.

Fifth grader Isaac Cannon saw the kit for the first time today. He told me what he knows about littering.

"That is bad and that is wrong," he shared. "You shouldn't litter because it is not okay and that is not a good example for other people to litter."

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Sumter Christian School principal Matthew Marritt said he thinks students like Cannon will enjoy learning more about keeping their community clean.

"I think it will probably just amplify the importance of cleaning up and also conservation," Marritt explained.

Litter control officer Glenn Button developed this project. He says starting to teach kids young can build good habits.

"I think it’s just not a lot of education," he said about the litter that exists in the county. "And I think people not understanding what can cause litter in a town. And that’s what we’re trying to do now. We’re trying to educate."

Katie Collins is a water resources agent for Clemson Extension. She designed the kits with Button and spent months creating a lesson plan for teachers to work it into their curriculum.

"We're just training the next generation so that the litter problem gets less and less as we move forward," she said.

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Littering goes beyond beautifying the community, Collins shared. It also has negative impacts on the environment.

"Littering is harmful for so many reasons. If you have a litter threat in your community, it drives down property values, it makes it less likely for people to move into your community for new jobs because nobody wants to live in a community that has trash literally on the side of the road," Collins detailed. "It also can harm our wildlife, it can harm the resources we need like water. Nobody wants to go catch fish or get their drinking water from a water source that is full of trash and other pollutants."

The litter kits come in boxes that Button and Collins are delivering to the schools in the area. They are filled with maps, lesson plans and different materials to represent litter.

Students will build their environment, add "trash" to it and then pour water into the box to watch how rain impacts litter. 

Trevor Ivey is the interim executive director at Liberty STEAM Charter. He’s excited about this way for students to learn interactively.

RELATED: New Sumter charter school office opens downtown

"No doubt about it, kiddos these days love to learn when their hands are actively involved in the actual process," he said. "That is the cornerstone of our teaching philosophy here at Liberty STEAM Charter, so this is a no brainer for us to partner with organizations such as Clemson 4-H that are tasked with revamping the educational standards in a scholar-friendly way."

In addition to the kits going to public and private schools, Sumter's Clemson Extension office will also have at least one kit that homeschoolers can use.

These kits were funded by a grant through Palmetto Pride, which fights litter throughout the state.

"We want all of Sumter to remember to be the solution and not the pollution," Button told me. "And just pledge to help keep Sumter beautiful."

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