Students Take a Stand against Plastic Bags after Visiting Freshkills Park

James Madison HS


On February 9th, students at James Madison High School built a chain of plastic bags around the school building in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn. The project was meant to raise awareness about excessive use of the material and its harmful impact on the environment.

According to science teacher Jeanne Quarto, the plastic bag chain was inspired by the group’s trip to Freshkills Park back in October. “In Environmental Science, Freshkills Park is a perfect way to begin the term,” Quarto said.  “It shows the students first hand garbage placement and the benefits of biodegradable products.”

During their visit to Freshkills Park, Quarto’s students walked along the hills of the former Fresh Kills Landfill. Although the landfill closed 15 years ago, the landscape still serves as a reminder of where trash goes when it’s not composted or recycled, making it an experiential learning opportunity for students. Visiting the park and getting an overview of the history, engineering, and wildlife gave them a clearer understanding of garbage as an environmental issue.


Photo courtesy of James Madison High School

After their trip to Freshkills Park, Quarto worked with teachers Brian Schoenfelder and Renee Kaiser, asking students to research an environmental issue and potential solutions. “Students learned how plastics bags are the worst non-biodegradable culprit and how often and everywhere we see them,” she said, “and we wanted to make a statement about how trapped we are by plastic bags.”

The chain of about 3,000 plastic bags spanned half a mile. According to the Brooklyn Eagle, James Madison students will now begin collecting plastic bags for recycling and re-purposing. They are also researching and building partnerships with companies like Trex, which uses plastic bags to make composite wood for benches at parks and public spaces.

“We wanted to change their behavior in addition to their thinking,” Quarto said.


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