Tucumcari seventh graders (from left) A.J. McElroy, Tylor Nunez and Jantzen Darnell were part of teacher and Coach Dub Smith's weekly clean up project that started Wednesday and was created to boost Rattler morale.
They may not have been whistling while they worked, but the group of seventh graders outside Tucumcari Middle School on Wednesday afternoon was sure talking and laughing while they picked up trash.
Yes — they were laughing while they picked up trash.
“They’ve picked up everything from cigarette butts to paper to boxes,” said physical education teacher and Coach Dub Smith, who came up with idea for all his classes to hit the grounds and cull debris with the reward of getting a free gym period for the activity of their choice.
“We’re doing it to boost Rattler pride,” Smith said, adding other classes throughout the middle school are following suit by going above and beyond standard classroom activities.
Fellow coach and teacher Bryan Dunlap said the cleanup project is part of the Effective and Efficient Operations Committee, which heads non-academic projects at the school. He said the other school committees are specifically geared for in-class activities, finding ways to improve reading, math and writing.
“Our goal this year is to have every different class accelerate in some way to make Tucumcari (middle school) the best it’s ever been. Our spring project is to get donations from nurseries and plant some trees. We’re excited about the school year,” Smith said. Smith also said he’s excited about the students’ reactions to collecting junk.
“I am exceptionally pleased with their attitude,” Smith said of his sixth- and seventh-grade classes that started with his first period’s picking up trash at 8:15 a.m. until well into the afternoon. The school grounds were so clean, Smith said, they had to move across the street to find more debris.
Although some groans were heard from the gaggle of students when Smith announced the school grounds cleanup would be a weekly thing, several of the kids said they not only didn’t mind it, but actually enjoyed it.
“It’s fun,” said Tylor Nunez. “You get to be with your friends and help our environment.” Nunez and his fellow classmates Jantzen Darnell and A.J. McElroy all said they had experience working outdoors from mowing the lawn when their mothers made them.
Darnell said he also put fertilizer down, but cleaning the school grounds was a first. “It’s good for our school and it’s good to get outside,” Darnell said. “It makes everything look nice.”
McElroy gave examples of another school project that increased morale.
“We’re making ornaments for the tree in Washington,” he said, referring to a statewide contest that gives one student who submits an ornament a chance to win a holiday trip to the nation’s Capitol.
The three also agreed they got a school spirit boost from playing on the middle school football team.