By Emily Drooby
EAST FLATBUSH — The 85 students at Brooklyn Jesuit Prep (BJP) — spanning across grades five through eight — took their religion lessons outside the classroom on Earth Day. They spent the last hour of their school day becoming stewards of the earth, cleaning up loose litter in their school’s vicinity.
After BJP relocated from Crown Heights to East Flatbush at the beginning of this school year, its students wanted to beautify the earth and show their new neighbors who they are as a Catholic school.
Gregory Arte, who has been principal of BJP for four years, said the school’s student government approached him in February expressing a desire to celebrate Earth Week and do a local community service project on Earth Day.
“It was great to see them applying what they’re learning in religion class with the Pope’s Encyclical and the Catholic social teaching — caring for God’s creation — and applying that to things that they can do with the whole student body through service as well,” Arte said.
Eighth-grader Chad Herry explained how he and his classmates walked around the neighborhood, picking up garbage that had been left out on the streets or had blown out of trash cans on windy days.
“Most of our knowledge about saving the Earth comes from what we’re learning in religion class — about how we’re supposed to care for God’s creation,” Herry said. “It’s important for us to try to keep the Earth healthy because we want to try to preserve our lives and the lives that come after us.”
Eighth-grader Tahir Osman said Earth Day, for him, is about spreading awareness on a daily basis and making a real change for the future.
“It’s about finding ways to reduce, reuse and recycle; not buying disposable products and just throwing them away,” Osman said, “and buying reusable items instead to preserve plastic.”
BJP’s four grades split up, walking up and down 15 residential blocks and along Glenwood Road to clean up trash from the sidewalk, along the curbs, and by tree trunks.
Within a half-hour, the students collected more than 20 bags of garbage, which included disposable masks, plastic bottles, and candy wrappers.
Though the Earth Day clean-up project was a new community service initiative in their new area, BJP faculty and students said they look forward to making this a permanent tradition for years to come.
“The community is filled with trash, and we don’t want to see that,” added eighth-grader Justeena Nash, a student government member. “We want to see the beauty.”