Bret Harte Middle School Bring Litterati to Oakland

 Photo by Jeff Kirschner.

Photo by Jeff Kirschner.

Earlier this year, the leadership students at  Bret Harte Middle School decided to use social media to go after litter in their Oakland, California community. In three simple steps; taking a picture, hashtagging it with Litterati, and throwing out the piece of trash, the students cleaned their community during litter walks.

Ms. April Harris, the leadership teacher at Bret Harte, was the teacher responsible for this project. She notes that, “middle school students are highly social beings, and very much into social media”. She saw Litterati as a way to offer her students a level of engagement that has an impact on their community and is different from other outlets.

It goes without saying that Litterati went above and beyond. When Litterati founder Jeff Kirschner came in to do a talk with her students, Harris could see that her kids were hooked on to the idea. However, they were not all willing to participate. The leadership students expressed concern about their online presence, and how it could be negatively affected by posting pictures of litter all over their Instagram feeds. After some discussion, this was turned into a positive as the students thought of how many new Litterati followers they could gain. For those who liked the idea, but were not sold on using their personal Instagram account, they created a second “Litterati” account for themselves.

During a litter walk, Harris and her students realized how much litter could accumulate in one area. They experienced something they have walked by many times, but not really ever seen. They actively engaged in improving their community. All with nothing more than a camera phone and a few garbage bags.

Because of this experience, Harris is excited to collaborate with Litterati more. She hopes that the group can be incorporated into a year long project in Bret Harte that eventually spreads to other schools in Oakland. She also sees Litterati beyond Oakland, and knows it will have a global impact.

It took one teacher to encourage a classroom, who, in turn, engaged with their local community and improved it. It goes to show how one person can make a difference!