Storm Drain Rangers Speak Up!

Written by Grace Bedecarre

How old were you when you first realized that your voice could have an impact? At the culmination of the Storm Drain Rangers Program at Guy Emanuele Jr. Elementary School in Fremont, fourth and fifth grade students had the wonderful opportunity to test the power of their voices and inspire an audience full of their peers to take environmental action!

The students prepared to become environmental leaders during their watershed lessons with KIDS for the BAY Educator, Grace Bedecarre. They spent part of their school days exploring their local watershed and developing an appreciation for their environment. They studied the San Francisco bay estuary, the life it supports and the harmful impacts that pollution can have on the organisms that call it home. A new awareness of the plastic pollution in our oceans made them determined to take action. The students were excited to complete a trash cleanup in their local watershed, and they collectively cleaned up 2,214 pieces of trash! They also had the chance to share their knowledge with their whole school in an engaging student-led assembly.

Our young environmentalists were dedicated to putting on a successful and informative show. They practiced rain or shine! Students in Mrs. McCarthy’s class weathered the windswept school quad when it was time to rehearse for the assembly. Props went flying, and scripts had to be tightly grasped! When the students returned to their classroom after practicing, they found that the wind had tipped over the trash cans outside, resulting in all the contents being spread around the concrete! The students ran to pick up the trash and to cover the cans. Mrs. McCarthy exclaimed, “You can see the effect this program has had on them through these actions!” 

When it came to the exciting day of the assembly, the cafeteria filled up with an audience of kindergarten through third grade classes. Even some family members of the performers were able to make it and enjoy the performance! When Diseré saw her family sitting in the audience she exclaimed, “I’m so excited for my mom to see!” Her parents waved at her. Diseré’s mom exclaimed, “What a great video moment!”

Backstage, one young scientist from Ms. Wong’s class named Japjot anxiously reread her script. She was dancing in her crab costume and memorizing all her lines, but right before the play, as she looked out into the audience, she leaned in and told Ms. Grace, “I’m getting a little nervous.”  If you ever have experienced the moments before a performance, you can understand this feeling well! There was definitely a wave of nerves among all the students a few seconds before … ‘Lights…Camera…Action!’ 

During the assembly the students’ nerves disappeared and they leaned into their important roles. The format of the play allowed the audience to be a part of the conversation with the performers, As the students held up images of storm drains they asked the audience where it leads to- and everyone called out together: “The ocean!” When the performers showed images of sea turtles and birds wrapped and tangled in plastic the audience was brought to a tangible silence. When one performer shared the sobering fact, “Scientists predict that there will be more trash than fish in the ocean by 2050,” there were gasps in the audience. 

Among the moments of sincere reflection, the play was sprinkled with comic relief. Classmates giggled as their friends bounced on stage in large marine animal costumes. One student, Warren, nailed the delivery of a classic pun- stating, “My dad got packing a zero waste lunch in the bag!”  While exaggeratedly  pointing to his prop lunchbox. 

The full cafeteria was enthralled during the entire play. In the final scene, Seraphina went on stage with a picture of Earth, the blue planet, in all its glory. She posed the question, “Is this your home?” The whole audience replied in a roar “Yes!” She continued, “Should we protect it?” and once again, was met with a resounding “Yes!” 

As the students made their way onstage for a final bow, Japjot was all smiles, signaling a pride for her accomplishments despite her initial nerves. The audience clapped and cheered for the Storm Drain Ranger environmentalists.

As curtains closed, Gaby was hesitant to transform back into her normal clothes after the performance. “I love wearing this whale costume!” she told Ms. Grace.

As Mr. Wellman’s class was leaving, another teacher made a point to pat him on the back, congratulating with two thumbs up, “That was really good!” she exclaimed.

Back in the classroom Ms. Wong declared, “When we first mentioned the assembly some of you were not excited to do public speaking, but look at what you did! You went up there and performed and it was amazing. You should all be so proud!” All the young environmentalists in her class cheered for each other. 

Students talked amongst each other about how they thought the performance went and what they hoped the audience learned. Zury shared, “I hope the audience learned that pollution is affecting our oceans and planet and that we can do something about it, even if we are kids.” Ashaan added, “I think it’s important that they learned how to help the community to make the world a better place to live in.” 

Hosna reflected on the success of the performance saying, “I saw that people learned, which made me happy, because maybe they’ll be inspired and influence others to help take care of our world.” 

It is no easy task to speak up for what you think is right, or to perform and captivate a large crowd. The young students of Guy Emmanuele can proudly say they have accomplished both of these feats!

KIDS for the BAY