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Fort River students lobby Goldstein-Rose

  • Solomon Goldstein-Rose listens as Fort River School sixth grader Katherine Kang and three other students suggest updating the state’s bottle bill. —Scott Merzbach



Staff Writer
Sunday, June 04, 2017

AMHERST — For one group of sixth graders at Fort River School, many plastic bottles are being thrown into the trash because there is no incentive to recycle items that can't be redeemed for a cash deposit.

On Friday morning, a visit from State Rep. Solomon Goldstein-Rose, D-Amherst, gave the students an opportunity to appeal for state leaders to update the Massachusetts bottle bill.

"It's a really good idea and a really big part to reducing waste," said 12-year-old Katherine Kang, who with other students spent recent weeks researching the topic and collecting data showing that an improved bottle bill would lead to higher recycling rates. 

Another group told Goldstein-Rose that the Legislature needs to intervene to keep animals from being mistreated, including from the dangers posed by hunting.

“A lot of animals are getting extinct or endangered,” said Jenna Schilling, 12. “My group was focused on that.”

The presentations were part of an annual day, that concludes a civic literacy unit, in which students get to lobby on a series of topics they have researched, from state and national issues to problems affecting Amherst and the school building.

Sixth-grade teacher Timothy Austin said the idea is to have students solve a problem by learning more about it and then making a proposal.

The students began their work in April, preparing oral presentations and making posters with information about their topic.  The students also sent letters to the officials who came to visit, Austin said.

In addition to Goldstein-Rose, students got to speak with U.S. Congressman Jim McGovern, members of the Amherst Select Board and School Principal Diane Chamberlain.

For each idea, Goldstein-Rose gave students information about the process that takes place at Beacon Hill. He said he doesn’t understand why there is resistance to expanding the bottle bill.

“I thought he had pretty good ideas on following up,” Katherine said. “We could email or write letters if the bill gets a hearing.”

Goldstein-Rose said that efforts to protect animals would more challenging because hunting is a popular sport and there are positives to having people who hunt deer eat the venison.

But he said the students should not give up hope that they could make changes. "Anything is possible," he said.

To stay involved, Goldstein-Rose said students are welcome to show up at legislative hearings and write emails.

“I started in sixth grade writing letters, so you're all on track to become state legislators,” said Goldstein-Rose said, who himself attended Fort River and started a recycling program that remains in place.

Goldstein-Rose touched on other topics, such as President Trump's decision this week to have the United States withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord. While he doesn’t see this as having an immediate impact on climate change, he worries about the repercussions.

“It's symbolic of a huge problem we have with him as president on global warming,” Goldstein-Rose said.

Goldstein-Rose also talked about his bill focused on improving school climate and reducing tensions around differences.

McGovern later said on Twitter that “hearing from our next generation of leaders always inspires me.”

This is also something Goldstein-Rose expects of the students.

“I want to get more young people into politics and involved in the system,” Goldstein-Rose said.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com