Impacts of Pollution: Manzanita Community School, Oakland

Written by: Sienna Kuykendall

Student environmentalists at Manzanita Community School in Oakland were eager to share their observations from their at-home activity to investigate storm drains in their local neighborhoods during their KIDS for the BAY Zoom lesson. Mussa, a third grade student, shared a picture of himself next to a storm drain and explained, “I observed that the storm drain had fallen leaves in it and a lot of plastic trash.”

Photo of Manzanita student with a storm drain.

In breakout rooms, students observed images of animals harmed by plastic pollution and discussed their thoughts and feelings. Chenoah explained, “The turtle is stuck in a six pack drink holder. The six pack ring changed the turtle’s shell growth and made it grow in the shape of a figure 8 instead of a normal shape of a circle.” Khloe exclaimed, “This is just like the turtle that I have as a pet! It makes me sad that turtles and all kinds of sea creatures are getting hurt because they confuse plastic for food.”

Student Jamboard of animals harmed by pollution!

KIDS for the BAY Educator, Sienna Kuykendall, asked the whole class to show how they felt about the harmful impacts of human pollution through their facial expressions. Students expressed their sadness and frustration by showing sad faces, and by sharing emojis in the Zoom chat. The young environmentalists were also ready with solutions. Jonathan suggested, “A way to make sure this doesn’t happen is to recycle and put six pack rings in the trash so they don’t get into the ocean.” Jasmine added, “Cut the six pack rings before you put them in the trash and save the turtles!” Heysel countered, “Don’t buy those in the first place!” Ms. Sienna congratulated students on their brave and creative ideas and shared that the solutions they brainstormed are described by the Five Rs (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot and Refuse).

After watching a video about the impacts of microplastics on the environment, Ms. Sienna asked the class, “Why are microplastics such a serious problem?” Kamil responded,  “Microplastics are extra dangerous because they are smaller and there are so many of them.” Class teacher Mr. Wallace added, “Big pieces of plastic, like water bottles on the ground, are easy to see and pick up, but microsplastic are harder to see and harder to remove.” Eliseo also noted that, “Microplastics are in our face wash and fish who are trying to eat plankton confuse them for little pieces of food.”

Image of microplastics.

Khloe suggested, “We can clean up the litter we find on the ground and protect  animals from the microplastics that go through the storm drains. We should do it soon because it’s been really windy and rainy lately and I think a lot of pollution is getting in our storm drains right now.” 

Next students learned a new vocabulary word, biomagnification, which describes how pollution accumulates in food chains and impacts all of us. In her own words Jazlynn explained, “We should be worried about this pollution! When a big fish eats a lobster that ate pollution, it gets more pollution inside of its body and then if you eat the big fish, then you get sick from more pollution too!”

Image of biomagnification.

Student environmentalists were very eager to take on this litter cleanup challenge. They set goals for the number of pieces of trash and bags of trash they expected to clean up, and made predictions about the most common types of trash they would find. The class set a goal of 1,000 total pieces collected, but had confidence that they could exceed that goal! Antoine exclaimed, “I think we could collect a billion pieces of trash!”

KIDS for the BAY