On Friday, we had the distinct honor of visiting Seatack Elementary School in Virginia Beach for the 4th Annual Solutions to Ocean Pollution Summit. The summit included a panel of local experts who spoke about their role in addressing pollution in our oceans. From city council members to marine debris researchers and environmental educators, everyone chimed in on the topic. But the experts were not the stars at this summit. At this summit, the students took center stage. Students from first and fourth grades shared poems and speeches about ocean pollution, explaining their keen understanding of a problem that can be pretty complex. They spoke about the causes of litter and pollution; the negative effects of pollution on oysters and turtles; and the role kids can play in solving the global problem of ocean pollution.
Under the supervision of Marie Culver, the self-proclaimed “Garden Lady,” students at Seatack Elementary – an Achievable Dream Academy school – are immersed in environmental education. And it shows. Ms. Culver meets with her “Garden Morning Club” who helped design the Seatack Community Garden on site. This garden is simply amazing. Each class is responsible for tending their own bed in the yard which is also especially designed to be wheelchair accessible. Signs on the garden beds, printed by students on 3D printers, label the beds by grade level. The beds are filled with a variety of vegetables, herbs, and pollinators. The garden is surrounded by fruit trees and the entry arbor is adorned with grapes. The school’s Green Team takes extra care of the garden, holding their meetings in the “Lorax Circle” at the heart of their garden where they learn to be global citizens. Ms. Culver and her students gather in this circle to talk about environmental issues – and about life. The work being done at this school is simply remarkable.
You may have seen the Seatack Community Garden in the headlines recently. Virginia Beach native, Pharrell Williams, was on hand for the ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the addition of 16 new raised garden beds as a community project for the Something in the Water Festival. Pharrell was also the inspiration for the “Happy” scarecrow made of scrap metal and other found objects. Other artistic touches can be found in the upcycled tire planters and the hand painted billboard-style signs in the garden. Step inside the cafeteria and you’re greeted by the “Trash Talking Turtles” and their octopus friend. These are just some of the many treasures you find when visiting this school.
The summit ended with students talking about solutions to ocean pollution. There were some imaginative solutions like employing drones and submarines to remove litter from the ocean. But the overwhelming theme from these young minds?
- Don’t be selfish or lazy.
- Think of others.
- When you see litter, pick it up.
- Take care of the environment for us and for the animals.
These sound like great solutions to us.