Last week Wildwood Environmental Academy’s (WEA) 10th and 11th graders faced Lake Erie water issues by “Adopting a Beach” (Maumee Bay State Park) through the Alliance for the Great Lakes. Tallying each and every cigarette butt, food packaging item, fallen balloon, and tiny piece of plastic, we proudly stopped 1,793 items (41 pounds of trash) from entering our precious Great Lake(s). Amy Schumm, our math teacher, integrated teaching statistics into the day, while Andrew Brandt, Social Studies teacher, discussed why it is our civic responsibility to help solve environmental issues (teachers weighing trash below).
I challenged these students to think about the importance of our five Great Lakes, which contain 20% of the planet’s freshwater. We are a part of 35 million (people) who drink water from the Great Lakes. The mindset shift in one day was visible. Students started with a plan to pick up litter for just one hour and then play on the beach. After almost two hours, they were still tallying garbage and no one complained. It was powerful to discuss the experience a few days later. It felt good to help something that matters, said one, another commented something that’s helping others…and ourselves. But, my favorite line was written by Payton Palowski in the sand, “WEA was here to save the world.”