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Teaching earth consciousness
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Most children at East Newton Elementary know Mary Anne Smith as the lady who stands by the trash can at lunchtime and makes sure everyone places plastic bottles in the recycling bins.

Smith, a teacher of 27 years and 25 years in Newton County, helps students struggling in reading and math as an Early Intervention Program specialist and also heads up the school's Recycling Club.

Students and teachers at East Newton began recycling in 1990 - the first school in the district to do so.

"It started because that was the 30th anniversary of Earth Day," Smith said, "and we had a group of teachers that were interested in environmental issues."

Smith oversees members of the recycling club as they make sure all classroom recycling bins are placed in the hallway on Thursday afternoon, so the members can empty them into larger bins for pick up on Friday mornings.

"It's not difficult to manage because we've got such a wonderful custodial staff here at East Newton," Smith said.

Smith also facilitated the planting of two gardens on the school's campus. The courtyard garden is undergoing a complete renovation this school year. The larger side garden, next to the school's outdoor classroom, will also have a few upgrades made to it.

"We're working to make them more butterfly and hummingbird friendly," Smith said.

As a member of the Keep Covington/Newton Beautiful's education committee, Smith works to ensure every school in the district has the same dedication to recycling as East Newton does.

She also invites the organization to perform their Seymore Green puppet shows, which put environmental issues such as water purity and littering into a perspective children can understand, at the school every year.

Smith explained she wants to bring the show in every year to ensure all students who go through East Newton have a chance to see the show and discuss it with their teachers.

Currently, Smith and all the members of KCNB are busy preparing for the Green Getaway - a dinner with entertainment. Ticket sales from the annual event on Nov. 2 go toward all the organization's educational programs for children and adults.

Smith said she wants all students to feel as strongly as she does about helping keep the community a clean, healthy place to live.

"We just want them to be environmentally aware," Smith said, "and know they need to take care of our earth."