Mills Elementary School is litter-free, thanks to 50 dedicated youngsters.
As part of an Earth Day celebration, two kindergarten classes spent a sunny afternoon making their school "beautiful."
"Most of our time is spent outside," Title I teacher Erich Fahr told the students. "But lately it's not very beautiful, is it?"
Shaking their heads in unison, students named all the items they had seen cluttering the playground, from glass to bottles and paper.
"People throw stuff on the ground and floor," Alayasia Bush said.
"That's right, they do," Fahr said. "You all have so much pride in the classroom, I thought it would be good to clean up the outside."
With warnings such as, "Stay away from the road," and "Don't touch glass, let me pick it up," Fahr and kindergarten teacher Steph Cantley lined the students up at the door to receive their supplies.
Armed with rubber gloves and trash bags, students could hardly contain their excitement as they approached the school's front doors and burst outside.
"Stay in the green, green grass," Cantley sang.
Students took heed and searched alongside bushes, trees, flowerbeds and sidewalks.
"We wanted to do something that the students would take a large part in, as well as be something meaningful for the students and stay with them for a long time," Fahr said.
Everyone wanted to hold the bags, which were full by the end of the cleanup.
Fahr and Cantley incorporated several school-related topics into the project: health, by warning about germs and stressing the importance of wearing gloves; and math skills, by having the students count the pieces of trash they picked up. The process also gave them a taste of teamwork.
"The person who picks up the most trash to make our school beautiful will be the Earth Day Superstar," Fahr said. "And I'll give everyone a ribbon for picking up five pieces of trash."
Running all over the playground and showing off the items they spotted, students were in high spirits, collecting more than 1,000 pieces of trash.
"My team is going to win," said Fredrica Franks. "Look, I have 31 (pieces of trash).
"I found 37 and 30-10," Miguel Hall-Tackett said, holding up a flower he found among a cluttered patch of grass. "That's a lot."
"You're the best," Cantley told the students. "I'm so proud of you. Look, the littlest one in the class got the biggest piece of trash. You know it's been bugging me for awhile, trying to have a great time and seeing empty bottles and trash everywhere. Yuck."
To reward the students for their hard work, Fahr and Cantley set them loose with an extra 25 minutes on the play equipment.
"Since the activity the students are completely obsessed with the world around them -- in a good way, of course," Fahr said. "They will come in from recess with things they have found from the playground and throw them in the trash. They have learned a valuable life lesson that even though it may not have been your mess or your trash, it is making the world you live in messy, and it is everyone's responsibility to clean it up."
Fahr said the students are displaying more pride in their school because they were involved in making it a better place.
"The cleanup was a huge success," he said. "Our neighborhood and playground were spotless, and our pride in our school and ourselves has never been higher. If 52 kindergarteners can make such a huge difference, imagine what an entire community or town could do."