“Why should I care about the ocean?”
This is the first question I asked middle school students from the Kearsarge Regional School District to think about this summer (and hopefully beyond). I had the opportunity to lead a workshop at their STEM Camp on a topic of my choice, and I chose marine conservation.
What is marine conservation? Marine conservation is the preservation, protection and restoration of the ocean habitat. More simply, it is taking care of the big, ol’ blue ocean that surrounds us all.
Why should they, you, or anyone care about the ocean? We reviewed the following reasons:
- At least 50% of the oxygen we breathe comes from the ocean. Thank you, phytoplankton!
- Around 85% of daily evaporation comes from the ocean. Thank you, water cycle!
- Fish is the primary source of protein for more than 3 billion people. Thank you, seafood!
- Also, we can be thankful that the ocean helps with
- Climate Regulation (after all, it covers over 70% of our world’s surface)
- Medicine (ingredients that help fight cancer, heart disease, arthritis and Alzheimer’s Disease come from the ocean)
- Economy (the U.S. produces around 282 billion in goods and services from the ocean each year)
- Recreation (a lot of people like to play in the ocean)
After students understood why they should care about the ocean, students participated in a garbage-organizing activity – it wasn’t as gross as it sounds! Each group of students received a bag of ten different types of items that were collected by people around the world on last year’s International Coastal Cleanup Day put together by Ocean Conservancy. Students were asked to put the items in order from most found to least found.
We discussed what each item had in common after each group had successfully accomplished their garbage-organizing challenge. Each item was, in some manner, made of plastic. Also, each item was a single-use item (something made to be used only once). This was actually the first year in more than 30 years that this global effort has resulted in data of the top ten items collected being composed of all plastic.
The second question I asked the students to consider was this: “How can I take care of the ocean?” After watching this PBS Digital Studios video titled “How Much Plastic is in the Ocean?” we discussed the six steps we can take to take care of the ocean:
- Reduce (buy fewer things packaged in plastic)
- Reuse (use plastic items more than once if possible)
- Recycle (don’t throw it away – recycle in some way)
- Rethink (determine how you can make or build something without plastic)
- Repair (fix those plastic items rather than toss them)
- Refuse (say “No!” to disposable plastics, like straws)
For the last part of the workshop, I displayed several large bags of plastic…regrettably. The large bags contained all of the plastic items I had saved up from one week of use from my own household. In one way, it was discouraging. In another way, it helped me see the changes I needed to make, and could make, to help reduce the amount of plastic I used in my home. I strongly suggest that you try this for one week at your household, and then determine the ways you can reduce the amount of plastic your family uses on a regular basis.
Students then participated in an activity of recycling – each group was given a bag of plastic items to create something new. The students were extremely engaged, as well as determined to come up with a clever creation. Their recycled products included watering cans, games for kids, plastic art (made to deter people from using single-use plastics), robots, and more. I was very impressed with their creativity and ingenuity.
I had one last question for the middle school students before the workshop concluded. We reviewed why we should care for the ocean. We reviewed how we can care for the ocean. The third, and last question of the day for the students was, “Will you care for the ocean?”
Will you care for the ocean?