Protecting the ocean
Thirty-one of our 9th and 10th grade students began the month of May by heading off to the Sado Estuary near Setúbal, Portugal to join Ocean Alive, a non-profit organisation that is dedicated to preserving the seagrass meadows in this area as well as creating awareness campaigns for shellfishing without litter and the impact of our behaviours on climate change, amongst others.
Our students were able to understand the effects of global warming on the local species that are disappearing due to harmful behaviors like littering. Students were very surprised to hear that the planet is loosing two soccer fields of seagrass every hour and that only 27 dolphins are left in the Sado Estuary due to the rapidly disappearing sea forests.
After learning about the effects of pollution on marine life, our students took action by helping clean the Carrasqueira beach. In one hour, our students collected 168 kg of trash from that beach. When they first arrived, it seemed that there was nothing there to clean up. It seemed like an ordinary clean beach to sit back and relax. However, as soon as they put on gloves and had a trash bag in their hands, they began to realize that there was trash hidden in every corner. Out of the 168 kg of trash that our students collected, only 33 kg could be recycled - a little less than 20% of what was found. This was an "aha-moment" for many of our students! Many wondered "Why can't it all be recycled?" and what they discovered was that, many times, the plastic bottles, wraps and bags that we use contain different types of materials (sometimes, they are just different kinds of plastic) and these cannot be separated. Because they cannot be separated, they cannot be recycled. This is when many students began to realize that the answer is not to simply recycle, but to change our consumer behavior by not using single-use containers. For example, by bringing food in reusable containers instead of plastic/foil wraps or by purchasing big packages instead of small/individual packages.
Our students also participated in a local campaign to recycle truck tires that had been dumped in a nearby beach. They cleaned these tires so that they could be taken to a specialized recycling site. Finally, they also collaborated in a fishing net cleaning campaign by removing lead and plastic from these. The lead was also taken to a specialized recycling company along with the plastic. These fishing nets will now be able to be reused by local fisher women without polluting the ocean.
Of course, hard work deserves to be rewarded. Students were able to enjoy dolphin-watching, snorkeling and an amazing homemade lunch (one entrée and three main dishes along with local sweets) by the local fisher women too. The Ocean Alive scientists were able to explain many interesting facts to our students when dolphin-watching and snorkeling. They saw interesting marine life such sea carrots and cuttlefish eggs.
This week you may find our students daydreaming about how to save this amazing planet that we live on... and a bit sleepy too!