Solutions to Plastic Pollution

Written by Aislinn Sterling, Program Manager

Many of us know that the choices we make at the grocery store affect our health but did you did you know those choices can also affect the health of our oceans? Have you ever thought about where our garbage goes when we throw it “away”? Third grade students at Glorietta Elementary School in Orinda become experts on the harmful environmental effects of plastic pollution and how to reduce landfill and ocean waste. They shared their knowledge with the rest of their school through creative presentations in order to help create a zero waste future.

Each group of students shared a different message about how to reduce plastic pollution in our landfills and oceans. Some students talked about specific products we buy, what happens to each of them and which choices create the least plastic waste for the environment. One group compared the extensive plastic waste created by individually packaged apple sauce cups and pouches to lower waste alternatives like bulk apple sauce in glass jars or simply buying apples instead.

Another student group shared information about various kinds of straws. “Plastic straws can’t be recycled,” Joseph explained, “so they end up in the landfill or the ocean.” “Paper straws are better because they can be composted,” he added. “Metal and glass straws are even better because they are reusable so they can be washed and used again and again!”

Tips about how to reduce plastic in landfills and the ocean, like how to pack a “Zero Waste Lunch” or how to cut back on food packaging waste by buying food in bulk were also featured in the presentations. Each group created a large visual to share their knowledge with the entire school, including every student in the school and family members as well.

Register for one of our many exciting Environmental Action Projects!



Investigating San Francisco Bay Life

Written by Andrew Patel, Program Coordinator

“These fish are so amazing! I think they are really beautiful.” said Landry, a student in Ms. McIntire’s class. “Are we going to get to hold the fish?” asked Yarelli. GreenLeaf Elementary School third grade students in Oakland were excited to investigate Dungeness Crabs and Striped Bass fish and were thrilled to learn biology like real scientists. “I wonder how they move through the water, they must use their caudal fins to swim,” Sebastian shared.

I held a Striped Bass to share the fish anatomy and to demonstrate the most interesting ways to investigate the fish. As I lifted and moved the fins students gasped in excitement. Alex shared, “I think the dorsal fins have spikes to protect them from predators!”

After the demonstration the students investigated the bay organisms. “I want to hold the crab,” said Jasmine eagerly, “I think the pattern on the shell is really interesting!” The students used their senses to study the anatomy and the adaptations of the organisms. “The shell is really hard, and the space between the joints is soft, the abdomen is squishy and some parts of the crab are furry,” observed Carlos.

The students were focused and engaged. “You can see the gills and the red inside the fish,” said Alexa. “Wow! The tongue is really sharp and the teeth are so spikey!” Jordan replied, “Probably so it can break up its prey.”

After the students said goodbye to the fish and crabs, they washed their hands and shared what they learned from the investigation. Jackie said, “I found out that a crab has an abdomen that opens.” Kearsten said, “I liked feeling the way the Striped Bass body moves, it moves like an ‘S’ like this,” she and other students moved their hands back and forth, “I imagine it swims through water really well.”

Studying real organisms from the San Francisco Bay helps students connect with life in the watershed we all share and inspires them to help to protect and care for this special environment.

Green Alternatives to Toxic Pesticides

Written by Cayla Naranjo, Program Coordinator

Pesticides have been linked to environmental and human health hazards for over 50 years, yet they are still used in homes and gardens throughout the United States. Marina Vista Elementary School fourth grade students from Pittsburg studied the effects of pesticides and were eager to make a difference in their homes and community. Sabah said, “The problem is that toxic pesticides are sprayed on the plants and then get into food chains. Even people can eat it and sometimes get very sick.”

To begin their Action Project, students created a farm model to see how pesticides can spread throughout a watershed. After completing the experiment, Carlos concluded, “The pesticides went on the crops, into the ground, and to the water.” Jeremiah added, “The pesticides made the water poisonous, and if it was real life, the toxic pesticides could spread everywhere.”

The students then created an all-natural solution to using harmful pesticides in their homes and gardens, to protect plants, without introducing harmful chemicals into the environment. Students had the option to create a peppermint neem oil pesticide or an orange citrus pesticide.

Students wrote letters to their family members and friends to explain the importance of using their green pesticides and to explain how to make them in the future. Jadana said, “I am going to give this letter and pesticide I made to my grandma as a gift. She has a lot of plants and her birthday is coming up.”

Third and Fourth Grade Environmentalists Teach the Five Rs!

Written by Aislinn Sterling, Program Manager

Did you know that saying, “No thank you!” to a plastic straw or packing your lunch in reusable containers could help protect a sea turtle? Third and fourth grade students from Searles Elementary School in Union City put on an Assembly to teach their whole school and many of their parents about the importance of reducing plastic waste to keep our oceans healthy. “The most important thing I hope the audience learned is to save our earth!” shared Jeremy. “For example, they might think of picking up trash and telling people to use reusable things instead of disposable things. I think it is important that they learned this because they might think twice before littering and change their mind. Then our earth will be more clean and beautiful.”

The whole school community came together to learn from the students about how plastic pollution is harming ocean health and ocean life. Parents, grandparents, siblings and cousins were also part of the audience. Fourth grade teachers Ms. Mares and Mr. Bautista played sea turtles in the Assembly and the school principal, Ms. Raquel Bocage, played a whale—all in full costume! “I found the Assembly successful for the kids as well as the entire school,” Ms. Leda Mares commented. “We had a larger than normal group of students cleaning up litter on Friday and Monday. More students want to participate in keeping our school community clean.”

Important messages about practicing the Five Rs (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot/Compost and Refuse) concluded the Assembly. “Being a Storm Drain Ranger means practicing the Five Rs,” one performer explained to the audience. “The Five Rs are tools to reduce waste.” Students shared how they have been practicing the Five Rs to reduce all the plastic garbage in the environment. “I’ve been practicing the Five Rs by bringing reusable containers for my lunch and I say no to straws,” said Claire. The students were so proud to have the opportunity to perform on stage and to be the teachers for a day! Together they informed their whole school of the harmful effects of plastic pollution and shared many waste reducing solutions to help create a cleaner, healthier future for all living things.

Third grade students make the best first grade teachers!

Written by Joanna Hoffman, Program Manager

“Usually I’m shy, but today my voice was strong!” third grade student Adrian from Berkeley Arts Magnet (BAM) Elementary School proudly exclaimed. BAM students in Berkeley took responsibility for the health of their watershed by spreading the word about plastic pollution. Kimberley was very excited to be a role model to the first graders. “It was cool to teach the first graders. They really seemed to understand that trash from our streets ends up in the bay through the storm drain system. I taught them that!” After the third grade “teachers” explained their hand-made colorful posters, they led their first grade buddies in a trash clean-up project. Altogether the classes picked up 632 pieces of trash from their schoolyard. “This is really important work,” shared Lina. “Now the first graders can spread the news and those people can spread the news and so on and everyone can help the watershed! Hopefully one day we can all live in a plastic pollution free world!”

Experimenting with Creek Engineering Models

“I think the creek covered in English Ivy looks less healthy because if there’s only one type of plant, there can’t be very many animals living there,” explained Aris, a third grade student from Berkeley Arts Magnet Elementary School. Aris and his classmates learned about creek restoration engineering by comparing historic photographs of creeks to figure out what makes a creek healthy or unhealthy. Using sand box models, the students then investigated how a creek habitat can be drastically changed by human engineering techniques. One student, Hanna shared, “The concrete channel actually increased erosion and then there was no habitat left for the animals! What were people thinking?!”

Students used cardboard pieces to represent creek-side plants in their models. Aris noticed, “I saw that the creek ecosystem is most healthy and has a natural, meandering pathway when there are creek-side plants along it.” This activity taught engineering concepts using model-building and was aligned with Next Generation Science Standards.

Last fall, Aris and his classmates grew native creek-side plant cuttings in their classrooms. This spring, they will use what they learned in their engineering experiments to help restore Strawberry Creek by planting red flowering currant and other native plants along the creek to prevent erosion, create habitat for animals and increase the beauty of the environment.

Learn more about our Environmental Action Projects.

Fifth Grade Five Rs Experts Teach Kindergartners

Inspired by how much her students enjoyed educating their school community through a Storm Drain Rangers Assembly last year, fifth grade teacher Ms. Jean Liu from Forest Park Elementary School in Fremont was excited to teach the Storm Drain Rangers program herself. Using the training and equipment she received from KIDS for the BAY, Ms. Lui guided her students to teach a kindergarten class about how trash travels from the storm drains to the San Francisco Bay and how to use the Five Rs (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot, and Refuse). Ms. Liu shared, “My fifth grade students enjoyed performing the Assembly for the kindergarten classes, and I heard from the kindergarten teachers that they had a great discussion with their students afterwards!” One of Ms. Liu’s students, Xiomara, shared, “The Assembly was important because if kids don’t know this information, our world will be filled with trash. Now they will reduce their trash and keep our world beautiful!” Another student, Rintaro, added, “The Assembly taught me not to be scared of being on stage. The experience was awesome!”

Learn more about our Storm Drain Rangers Program.

Discovering the San Francisco Bay Mermaid

“Can you find the mermaid?” asked KIDS for the BAY Instructor Joanna Hoffman. Jennifer, a fifth grade student from Schilling Elementary School in Newark, exclaimed, “If you look at the San Francisco Bay from above, on the satellite map it looks like a mermaid!” Students were excited to find Newark, their home town, near the mermaid’s “tail” on the map. Another student, Ariel, shared, “I found the Golden Gate Bridge! I think it’s cool that all of the water from our watershed has to go under the bridge to get to the Pacific Ocean.”

Students were excited to build models of the San Francisco Bay mermaid to observe how fresh and salt water mix in the bay to form Ester the Estuary! By adding drops of red food color to their models, students were also able to see how pollution can spread through the bay watershed. Alexia noticed, “If you pollute one body of the water in the bay, the whole estuary becomes polluted!”

Learn more about our Bay Estuary Scientist Classroom Workshops.

1 2 3 4 8