Last week I had the privilege of being a part of Medart Elementary School’s annual Project Learning Tree. Each year the student’s curriculum is enhanced by bringing speakers from the Big Bend area into the classroom to expand the “world” as it exists for young people. I was one of a number of speakers who presented their session eight times to reach the students in a small session. The theme that the school chose this year was Wondrous Wakulla. I shared the day with people talking on preservation of our coastlines, forests, nutrition and so on.
Of course when I was asked and heard the theme I jumped at the opportunity to talk about Wondrous Wakulla through the eyes of the trash that accumulates in the ditches all over the County. I brought two Interns from the Department of Education with me to cover the nutrition aspect of my work.
I took the children on a make believe trip to the Shellpoint in my revved up pick-up. All along the way I threw trash out of my make believe window aiming for the ditch or the bed of my pick-up. By the time we arrived at the beach, my car was empty of trash with very few things ending up on the truck bed.
A very meaningful discussion followed as I asked the students to tell me what the make believe Shelley was thinking as she trashed Wakulla County on her way south. Although the students could not believe I would do such a thing as litter and felt I really was a bad citizen, I know that some of them have done the same or watched their parents do so.
I had created a time line on the floor with numbers of years and asked the students to place the trash on the time line to indicate their estimate for how long each item will remain in the ditch or even in the landfill. The students were so surprised to learn that a plastic bottle will remain for 1000 years, an aluminum can, 500 years and a disposal diaper for 1000 years.
I then asked them to consider three things that they could do to make Wakulla County even more wondrous. If they could adopt the concepts offered and seriously change their behavior, they were to sign a pledge of commitment.
I want to share the results. I asked them to consider the following: I commit to trying to cut down on Wakulla County trash by doing the following things:
- I will not throw paper, wrappers, cans, bottles or any other trash from the car window or drop it when walking.
- I will discuss with my friends and my family how we might set up a system to do more recycling.
- I will use more things that I can eat from and drink from over and over like a re-usable water bottle or picnic dishes instead of products that are not biodegradable.
115 youth completed the survey. Of those, 113 committed to the first; 105 committed to the second; and 112 committed to the third.
I am very proud of the decision the students made to change the appearance of Wakulla County to make it truly Wondrous Wakulla. Thank you Medart Elementary for including me in your yearly event.
For similar articles and more information, please visit https://blogs.ifas.ufl.edu/wakullaco.