Class Project Encourages Owners to Safely Dispose of Dog Waste. Kids install Pet Waste Bag Stations and Promote their Use.

Students at the Fall Brook Elementary School in Leominster, MA know it’s important for dog owners to clean up after their pets. As a result, they are promoting dog waste bag use and showing local pet owners why poop scooping matters.

The students learned there are 7.8 billion bacteria in just three-quarters of a pound of dog waste. “And it can cause a lot of health problems,” said 10-year-old Brittany Kaldis one of the 5th grade students who researched the issue under the direction of teacher Lynn Fiandaca.

Brittany learned this startling fact when she and her classmates participated in the Disney Planet Challenge. The Disney sponsored event invited students nation-wide to enter the program designed to teach green habits and to empower children to take community action.

The Fall Brook Elementary students researched the environmental issues behind pet waste in ecosystems, and what they learned and the actions they took will be presented in a contest portfolio presented to Disney, an exhibit showing how the students studied an environmental problem and then how they promoted their solution.

Should Fall Brook Elementary present the winning portfolio, the class wins a trip to Disney Land in California, and receives a cash prize as well.

First step in the project was for the children to pick a problem, and then create a plan to address it. The kids found that dog waste was one of the big problems in Leominster, noting that a Pet Waste Disposal Ordinance just went into effect. The kids further researched this issues, then set to work to provide and promote a solution.

The goals they set for their environmental Challenge were to:

1. inform people about the new pet waste disposal law
2. inform people about dog waste and its effect on the ecosystem
3. inform people about how to responsiblydispose of dog waste
4. purchase a doggie waste bag dispenser station for use by town pet owners.

From left, Fall Brook Elementary School fifth-graders Jake Landry, 10, Justin Wilson, Edgar Dedos, 10, and Candice Ludden with DogiPot sign, dispenser, and mounting pole.

The children’s uncovered that because domestic dogs eat processed dog food, they digest additives and nutrients not naturally found in the environment. As a restult, waste from the pets can cause serious problems in water supplies, for example, promoting the growth of algae and aquatic plants which starve water of oxygen.

“It can kill fish, because it makes the aquatic plants grow,” Jeff Taylor, 10, said.

“Dog waste can contain dangerous pathogens, such as e. coli, that could pose a serious illness risk for humans who come in contact with contaminated water,” said Justin Soulliere, age 10.

Fall Brook Elementary School fifth-grader Jocelyn Mendes, 10, right, talks about her class environmental project aimed to get the community to pick up after their dogs.

“Dogs and other domestic pets have a more dangerous impact on the environment than wild animals, such as deer, that live in the city,” Edgar Dedos, 10, said.
“Moose and deer just eat the plants that are already in the environment,” he said. “When they do their business, it’s not as bad as a dog’s.”

To promote public awareness of the issue, and encourage pet owners to be responsible, the students raised money to buy a DogiPot sign, boxes of pet waste bags, and a dispenser, purchased from the on line green merchant, My Green Mind. The bags they chose were DogiPot oxibiodegradable baggies which decompose much faster than plastic bags, reducing landfill buildup, itself an important environmental issue.

The 5th Graders took a field trip to find areas where a lot of dog waste was present. They noticed a large amount of waste near the water, where residents take their dogs for daily walks, Fiandaca said.

“If they don’t pick up after their dogs, the germs could go into the water, and could make people really, really sick,” Jacqueline Heffler, 11, said.

Dylan Voutour, 10, and Rebecca Lavanway, 10, said the students are working on different “clean up after your pet” promotional messages such as posters that are being displayed in local stores and municipal buildings. They are creating a public-service announcement they will tape at local Leominster Access Television.

“We’ve made posters and brochures to hand out,” Voutour said. “We’re hanging up posters in a lot of different buildings.”

Teacher Lynn Fiandaca said she’s been “very impressed” with her students’ research and dedication to the project, which crosses all points of curriculum, because it has factored in math, science and writing.

Click here to view the LATV video on the class project.

CREDIT: This story has been edited and added to from an original story by reporter Marisa Donelan of the Sentinel & Enterprise. Photos by Byron Smith.