Florida School Kids Become the Change They Want to See

By Mana Heistand

As part of our gifted curriculum at Windy Ridge School in Orlando, students are learning all about the value of our water. Our Ocean Rescue Team, consisting of gifted students grades 1 through 5, use STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) and the standard Engineering Design Process in order to problem-solve.

First, they designed water filters to clean contaminated water. Then, they investigated ocean animals, their ecosystems and the impact humans have on ocean life. Through research, they identified problems our ocean is facing and found the causes and effects humans have on the ocean.

During the research stage, we found the Plastic Pollution Coalition website and it became an integral component to of mission. Our goal was to have 100 percent of all students at the school learn about the plastic pollution problem, and more importantly, become the solution to the problem by taking the Better Bag Challenge. Students pledge to say 'no' to plastic bags for a year and take a better bag instead.

"Individually, we are a drop; together, we are an ocean."

— Windy Ridge School motto

Our goal is to create leaders and problem solvers of our world using real world problems. With that it mind, we were able to unleash the heroes in our students as they spoke for the voiceless ocean and marine life in our world. 

The students created PowerPoint presentations, games and videos to help bring awareness about plastic pollution, and included a link to watch "Open Your Eyes," a video on the PPC home page starring actor Jeff Bridges that defines the problem, which was very impactful.

The Ocean Rescue Team reached out to family members, local businesses, and theme parks such as Disney World and Sea World, to donate items and services for a silent auction in order to raise money to enhance Plastic Pollution Coalition programs. We presented a Fine Arts Night, during which students used recycled water bottles to create art out of plastic materials. We raised $1,826 for the cause.

We celebrate World Oceans Day by wearing blue and doing the 'wave' to show we are the wave to a brighter future.

Mana Heistand is the Gifted Student Advisor K-5, Windy Ridge School