Boyle Heights students learn a lesson in activism and environment

Photos courtesy Jane Mayer

The students and staff at Stevenson Middle School on Thursday will  throw a garden party and plant an avocado tree at the Boyle Heights school to celebrate the 8th grade students who put their writing and creative skills to work to educate others about the importance of the environment. Under the direction of student teachers  Asriel Medina, Jane Mayer and Kit McConnell, the 8th graders were challenged earlier this year to write stories  to inspire and change their community in honor of Earth Day.  But the  8th graders decided they wanted to do more.

Stevenson students reading their books to Rowan Elementary 2nd graders

On their own,  the students decided to write children’s books “to persuade younger students to care for our planet and take a stand against polluting and littering,” according to a review of the project issued by the teachers. Working in groups, the students spent two weeks researching, writing, and illustrating seven books, with such titles as “The Recyclists” and “The Story of the Bag of Cheetos.” Students also collected aluminum cans and glass bottles to sell and raise money to bind the books and print duplicate copies for another school, Rowan Elementary, where on May 21 the Stevenson students read their stories to the Rowan 2nd graders and encouraged them to take an active interests in Boyle Heights’ environment.

Here is the text from one of the books, “The Recyclists,” written by 13-year-olds Jazmin Hernandez, Hilda Trejo and Cristabel Ramirez.

The Recyclists

“Stop littering!” yelled Ms. Ramirez as Larry and his buddies ran to class at the end of lunch.

On his way home from school that day, it started to pour. Larry watched streams of litter wash down his street. He wondered where it went.

That weekend, Larry and his sisters, Jazmin and Hilda, took their mother out to eat at her favorite seafood restaurant. On Monday morning, as Larry got ready for school his mother was stuck in bed. “Are you okay?” Larry asked. “I haven’t felt well since dinner at the restaurant.” Larry was worried about his mom’s health so he called his dad. They rushed her to the emergency room.

At the hospital, the doctor asked Larry’s mom about her diet. She told her about the seafood she had eaten. Dr. Hernandez explained, “It seems the fish you were served contained pollutants that caused an intestinal infection.” “This is becoming more common due to water pollution.”

The next day at lunch, Larry and his sisters listened as their mom complained about not being able to help clean the environment. “I sick of all this trash! People need to start caring about the environment. We’re killing ourselves!”

Larry looked outside his window and saw all the litter on the street and felt guilty inside. “The peaches on the tree are ripe and ready to be picked, but I feel to weak to do it myself. Larry, can you grab a basket and pick some for dessert?” the mom asked.

While he was outside, Larry’s neighbor, Steve, invited him to go bike riding. “Hey yo! Larry! Let’s go riding bikes,” Steve yelled over the fence. Larry dashed over toward his blue, chrome low-rider bike, which was leaning against the blue recycling bin. “Eureka!!!” Larry exclaimed. That afternoon, Larry and Steve put their plan into action. Using their bikes, and old wagon, and their biggest smiles, they became … The Recyclists.

For weeks they cruised their neighborhood, eventually after school until the sunset, collecting cans, bottles, boxes, scrap metal and anything else that could be reused or recycled. They even approached Ms. Ramirez at school to get permission to ride their bikes during school at lunch to collect recyclables. Before long they had collected mountains of recyclables, and the community was cleaner than ever. The boys held a BBQ and invited environmental organizations to attend.

Larry’s mom looked out at the group of environmental activist, and her face shined like the sun.

When school started the next year, their school was spotless, and The Recyclist rode on.


  1. Fantastic!

  2. Congratulations to the 8th graders and to their student teachers from UCLA’s Teacher Education Program!!

  3. Congratulations to the 8th graders and their creativity and activism! Congratulations also to their student teachers!

  4. What a wonderful culminating project! Community-based education and sustainability are truly alive. Thank you 8th grade English, UCLA student teachers and Mr. McConnell. Well done!

  5. What a lovely collaboration! Classroom teacher, UCLA student teachers, 8th graders –and their elementary school audience. Great to hear about this event!

  6. A terrific opportunity for student authors and activists! Congratulations!

  7. The students and teachers who have done this work are truly inspiring.
    They are tomorrow’s leaders. Keep moving our communities toward utopia!

  8. Thank you Stevenson students for bringing your creativity to Rowan Avenue School. My second graders enjoyed your books and enthusiasm. Great job!

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