KIDS for the BAY Students Go Green!
Written by: Shay Hart
Did you know that over one billion pounds of toxic pesticides are used in the United States each year, and approximately 5.6 billion pounds are used worldwide? Over 90% of American people have pesticides or their byproducts in their bodies due to eating conventionally grown fruits and vegetables!
“Pesticides help keep bugs away from plants, but they can hurt people because of what’s in them,” explained Alana, a fourth grade student at Longwood Elementary School in Hayward. “My mom has a garden at home and she taught me that using pesticides is bad and that there are better ways to not hurt the environment,” added Bryan. “I am going to ask our groundskeeper what they use here at school, so maybe we can swap out harmful pesticides for the natural, ‘green’ ones we will be making in class today,” announced teacher Ms. Pugh.
Our young environmentalists at Longwood Elementary were very excited to help make a difference at their school with their KIDS for the BAY Natural Pesticide Action Project. Students learned about the negative effects of using pesticides and how they can be harmful to all living things. They made their own natural pesticides, as an alternative to chemical sprays, using jalapeno peppers and garlic. They also taught others about the dangers of toxic pesticides and natural alternatives by making recipe cards and educational posters to share.
The Longwood Elementary students were inspired by the actions that University of California (UC) Berkeley student Mackenzie Feldman took to eliminate the use of pesticides from her school campus. “Wow! I can’t believe she was able to get pesticides banned from every UC campus and also from schools in Hawaii,” exclaimed Lucia. “Maybe we can offer to help pull out weeds around our school so our school maintenance won’t have to use pesticides,” suggested Ashby.
To see the impacts of toxic pesticides first hand, students worked together to pour gravel into a terrarium and create a model farm. They took turns to plant trees, added small animals and a barn, and made a body of water next to the farm. KIDS for the BAY Educator Shay Hart explained that the red food coloring students were about to add to their models represented a pesticide that had been sprayed over the farms. The students began to make it ‘rain’ over their models, and watched closely as the ‘pesticide’ started to spread. “Everything is turning red, there are pesticides everywhere!” exclaimed Angel. “I can’t believe the pesticide even leaked into the groundwater under the farm. I did not expect that,” Jonta pointed out.
Ms. Shay explained that groundwater is stormwater that ends up underground. She shared that over half of the people in the United States get their drinking water from groundwater. Samurai wondered, “If the water has toxic chemicals in it, does it get cleaned before people use it for drinking?” “It must or else people would be getting really sick all of the time,” responded Gurshan. Ms. Shay explained that groundwater usually gets treated before it makes its way into people’s homes, but sometimes the water doesn’t get treated properly, and will be contaminated and affect the people who drink it. “That’s what happend in Michigan with the Flint water crisis recently, when people were drinking contaminated water,” added Ms. Pugh. The students agreed that it was very important for environmentally conscious people to be in charge so that decisions to protect peoples’ health were always a top priority. “When I grow up I want to be a leader so I can speak up for people and the environment!” declared Ryzll.