Stephen Decatur seventh grade students have been tackling big environmental issues this year including climate change and marine debris in a partnership project with Chincoteague Bay Field Station. In May, these students visited NASA’s Wallops Island as a part of their year-long action project.
The students collected 56 pounds of washed up debris including plastic bags, foam pads, and water bottles and learned about how marine debris can negatively impact marine life.
Middle school student Markayla acknowledged how important it is to keep beaches clean, as garbage causes harm, even death to mammals. “Sea life will die because they have nothing to keep the water clean,” Markayla said.
Markayla added that there are organisms, like oysters, that are essential for maintaining healthy waterways and that pollution can affect the marine life that are already so important to the ocean. Climate change also alters temperatures necessary to maintain the healthy ecosystems that animals need to survive, which can have an effect on the entire food web.
Luke, another middle school student, explained that a major contributing factor to climate change is glaciers melting which, in tangent with thermal expansion, causes sea levels to rise. He pointed out that rising sea levels impact both humans and animals alike through habitat displacement.
Language arts teacher Michelle Hammond said teaching students about climate change is an incredibly relevant issue that needs to be better addressed in society. “Scientists have collected data and conducted research on climate change proving that it is a global problem,” she stated.
Seventh grade student Thorian said he likes to be engaged with the environment and enjoyed the service learning project because he likes to be outside and spends his free time outdoors every day, even when it is raining. Thorian said though despite his class’s efforts, he does not foresee a solution to climate change in the near future. “We drive cars every day and even if everyone recycled it wouldn’t matter because there will always be millions of people who don’t [want to help the environment],” Thorian said.
Hammond agreed by saying some day, planet earth could become uninhabitable. She compared society to the Pixar movie “Wall-E,” where humans had to leave earth and robots had to repair all the man-made damage. “This is the world they’re going to inherit and we have to teach them to take care of it,” Hammond said.
CBFS’s Education Director Elise Trelegan said she hopes the students realize the magnitude of these environmental issues and see themselves as a part of the solution. “I want to get them excited and passionate about being good stewards of the environment,” she said. Trelegan emphasized that service to the environment does not have to stop at involvement with CBFS. “Students like the ones that we work with at Stephen Decatur have the creativity and capacity to bring new ideas about helping the environment to their social circles to make a positive change," Trelegan said.
Everything you need to know about CBFS's educational programs, visiting Chincoteague Island, and more!