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Ocean Protectors: We’re All Connected

written by Jess Sullivan, BEA's Early Education Coordinator

In one quick month my colleague Caroline Coons and myself were able to go into every 3rd grade classroom in Rockbridge County, Lexington City and Buena Vista. We had one key question for these students. “Would you like to help clean our waterways and help save ocean animals?” Each class had a roaring YES!!!

During interactive presentations at each school, we shared a little backstory about my love of turtles (both terrestrial and sea). We also discussed the unique adaptations both types of turtles have, both physical or behavioral. Looking at our photos and listening to our stories, the students were on the edge of their seats. We could feel the connection they had with these serene creatures.

At this point in our presentation, we introduced our young friends to “the problem.” We had come to their classrooms because of our concern about marine litter and its impact on sea turtles. All of us want to do something to help but since we live 348 miles away from the ocean, it’s hard to know what we can do. That’s when we reminded kids about the watershed: Rockbridge County is connected to the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, via the Maury River and the James River. Because of this connection, we can help ocean animals right from our own backyards. It’s as simple as picking up litter and recycling, reusing and reducing our waste. 

Students agreed that they had all seen litter on the side of the roads and along local streams. We know that 80% of the ocean litter comes from the land and enters the waterways leading to the ocean. Once students realized the connections to the watershed–and their own capacity to make a difference–they saw the problem of ocean pollution in a whole new way.

It felt electrifying when we then challenged the 8 year-olds to think together about how they and the community could make changes to reduce the litter problem. Some kids suggested moving the trash receptacles away from the river on Route 60 East. Others thought more people should have covers on the back of their pick-up trucks so litter doesn’t fly out. So many students said, pick up trash if you see it! That’s something all of us can do, no matter our age.

Caroline and I would like to thank the many teachers for inviting us to visit their classrooms – and for the heartfelt enthusiasm and warmth we received from their students. YES, we can make a difference when we step forward together!

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