As his fingers closed around the air horn on the Department of Public Works sanitation truck, Brian – a pre-k student at Friendship Baptist Church School – grinned.
For almost all of his five long years of life, Brian has dreamed of this moment, seated behind the wheel of a trash truck, looking out at the world from the inside of the cab instead of looking from the outside in.
His grin grew broader as the truck’s driver and operator, Christian Booker, went over the details of the operations, showing the young student the radio and explaining some of the routines of a trash truck driver’s average day.
Who knows why Brian fell in love with these trucks? The most he can say is, “They’re cool.”
But his fascination has allowed his fellow classmates to benefit.
“We decided we could make this a lesson on trash and recycling,” said pre-k teacher Connie Maksel.
How the world disposes of its waste products, what becomes of them when they are picked up from the curb, and what the benefits are for recycling are all issues that future generations will have to tackle – even if starting the students on that road to self-awareness comes with the visit of a local trash truck.
Brian, of course, had “lots and lots” of toy trash trucks at home, but had only seen them passing on the street. He had never been in the inside, and he was first in line to climb up in the cab when he got his chance.
“Whenever he sees a trash truck on the street, he lights up like it’s Christmas,” Maksel said. “So I made a couple of phone calls about the possibility of bringing a trash truck here for the students to look at.”
The city agreed. Although it contracts out to private vendors’ residential trash and recycling pick ups, the city maintains a small fleet of trash trucks for picking up trash from pubic receptacles, said city spokesperson Dr. Joseph Ryan.
“Whenever he sees a trash truck on the street he lights up like it’s Christmas.” – Connie Maksel
An education in cleaning up the city
Michael Bock, general sanitation supervisor for the Department of Public Works, said they brought the truck over so that students could get a closer look at it.
“Our driver will answer any question they have,” Bock said.
Booker seemed to get as big a kick out of showing the kids the routine as the kids themselves, letting them climb up onto the seat one after another to pull the horn.
Lullita Fluellea, another teacher, said the kids learned about the truck, what they do, and how they clean up the environment.
Youssef, a pre-k student, said he’d seen trucks like this on the street, and liked getting the drivers to blow the horn.
“Sometimes I bring the trash to them,” he said.
Fellow student Jayden said the lesson is partly about cleaning up.
Christopher said he saw trucks on his street picking up trash, while Sara said she knew that trucks picked up the trash, but she’d never seen one doing it.
Noah said he wanted to see what the truck did, and Booker, after Brian tossed in a bag of trash, accommodated him, turning the mechanism that digested the bag, leaving students to step back in awe and laughter.
Brian, after tossing in the bag, stared into the rotating interior, a dream fulfilled, his eyes glowing with joy.
“His mom says that she doesn’t have to wake him,” Maksel said. “He just listens for the sound of the trash trucks. It is all he thinks about.”