Fifth Graders Set Sights on Saving the Turtles

Fifth Graders Set Sights on Saving the Turtles
Posted on 02/05/2020
This is the image for the news article titled Fifth Graders Set Sights on Saving the TurtlesFifth graders at Falcon Pass Elementary made it their mission to save the turtles and educate their whole school about it.

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Math and science teacher Ashley Bedell said it all started when students reported that they wanted to focus on helping animals and the environment in their Service Learning project survey taken in December.

“We reached out to Turtle Island Restoration Network (TIRN) since it was the perfect mesh of the students’ two main interests,” Bedell said. “We first partnered with them last school year at our Voyagers Give Back night.”

After she contacted the organization, two TIRN members agreed to give a presentation to fifth graders at Falcon Pass on January 8.

“They talked about how they help save sea-turtle life, and shared knowledge about the types of turtles found in our area that are critically endangered,” she said.

“They also discussed the direct impact of single-use plastic on our local environment, waters and sea-life and showed us pictures of turtles they had found who had ingested fishing hooks, line, and plastic materials.”

Additionally, the Turtle Island Restoration Network explained how the plastic enters the waters through run-off, which aligned with Bedell’s lesson on the water cycle. They also educated students and staff about how turtles ingest the plastic bags because they look like jellyfish, which is a main source of their food.

After the presentation, she says students were enthusiastic and inspired to help.
“They formed six committees and each student joined one so that every 5th grader had the opportunity to serve throughout the month and play to their strengths,” Bedell said.

Committee activities included leading morning meetings to raise awareness in the younger grades, sharing facts during morning announcements, designing the bulletin board, making awareness posters, making and distributing flyers, and creating prizes for participation in the pledge.

Fifth graders Shraya Bhatt and Delaney Degroot were on the morning meeting committee and loved the opportunity to teach younger students about this important issue.

“I liked speaking to people about what we’re doing and how the turtles are endangered,” Bhatt said. “We’re saving turtles and we’re saving marine life.”
Degroot was moved to act after listening to the presentation and seeing everything the TIRN does in order to address the problem.

“It really empowered me to want to do something. It’s crazy the amount of bags, trash, and plastic they pick up on the beach,” she said.

After some initial guidance and project planning, Bedell is proud to say it has been a 100% student-led project. Students were so passionate about it that they were willing to sacrifice time in other areas in order to make this project a success.

“Students have given up their recess to meet in their service project committees a couple times a week throughout the month,” she said.

In order to get others involved, fifth graders instituted a school-wide “Bring the Bag” Challenge where participants took a pledge to go 30 days without using single-use plastic bags or straws. It is a month-long version of the ongoing challenge hosted by TIRN and the Galveston chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, which began in 2014.

Students were encouraged to take pictures of themselves to post on a giant “Save the Turtles” bulletin board and use the hashtag #bringthebag.

“When students submitted a photo of themselves using a reusable bag, straw or water bottle, it was entered into a raffle,” said prize committee member Alexander Baird. “Every Friday, a winner was chosen to receive a prize for using reusable items.”

Prizes included silicon straws, reusable bags made out of old t-shirts, and a mixed media painting made by a fellow student, among others.
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