May 27—Central Point Elementary fifth-grade teacher Mack Lewis loves re-connecting with former students, especially when the catalyst for the connection is a worthwhile project.
And Wednesday's project was definitely worthwhile. Just ask anybody who has ever walked a mile in a CPE student's shoes. Over the years, fourth- and fifth-graders there have done their best to avoid dog waste during their 20-minute morning fitness runs around the campus, but even the most nimble youngster would have a hard time saving their shoes from the mine field that lazy dog owners had left behind.
The solution, concocted by four of Lewis' former students, was to install dog waste stations around campus, along with signs promoting the effort designed by his current students. The stations — those familiar green boxes loaded with disposable dog-waste baggies — were installed in strategic locations around campus Wednesday as two Crater Academy of Health and Public Services students who spearheaded the project, Kara Bender and Hailee Hackworth, looked on as supervisors.
"To see a high school kid really understand how much they had just accomplished," Lewis said, "and then when they see these things going up and realize what an impact it's going to have, the looks on their face is absolutely phenomenal."
The idea for a similar but community-funded project had been kicked around for years before eventually fizzling out. It came back this year with a tweak to the funding model. Rather than raise the money from a cash-strapped community, the CAHPS students decided to ask the district for the funds — roughly $1,000.
After they got the thumbs up from the superintendent's office and received positive results from a required survey of CPE fifth-graders, Bender, Hackworth and two of their classmates approached the city of Central Point for some guidance.
Meanwhile, Lewis' fifth-graders participated in an art contest to illustrate the signs that would be posted near the dog waste stations. Two drawings were chosen, one of which shows a woman tossing a green bag into a garbage can under the message: "Don't be that person! Please pick up your dog's poop." The woman's dog appears to be giving a thumbs up. Its word bubble reads: "It's that easy."
Local company Southern Oregon Signs volunteered to fabricate the colorful signs, which were bolted to the school's chain-link fence. Then on Wednesday, Bender, Hackworth and Central Point Elementary principal Kristin Kostman were on hand to make sure the installation went smoothly.
"The city gave them guidance about where to put the stations up and how effective they'd be based on the city's own experience with them," Lewis said. "So (Wednesday) it was about meeting the city there on the property and installing the stations. "The girls were there making sure that the city crew knew where they were supposed to put them, overseeing the process."
Lewis said he knows he'll still find dog waste occasionally, but according to the city the stations usually lead to a "huge improvement" in dog messes. Which means cleaner shoes outside the school, and cleaner floors inside.
Lewis is also hoping the signs provide a little extra nudge to local dog-walkers that the city's standard-issue signage can't.
"I think the fact that the signs are student-created is going to lend a little bit of extra power to it," he said. "And it's also interesting that the city was really intrigued by the signs and they apparently have a machine coming in next year that's going to allow them to print their own signs, and I got the impression from the guy at the city that this would be kind of cool to do student-created signs all over town. So that might make this even more powerful if you see student art all over town telling people to clean up after themselves. That would be kind of cool, wouldn't it?"
The CPE students' part of the project isn't over yet. In fact, the stations have created a job that the current students will pass on to future fifth-graders: dog station maintenance. Once a week, they'll collect the trash bags and re-stock the waste stations. It's a dirty job, but ...
"So it'll become a duty for the fifth grade," Lewis said. "A doody duty. We'll have fun with that."
Joe Zavala can be reached at 541-821-0829 or firstname.lastname@example.org