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Citizenship-building via Marine Debris Surveys

Originally appears in the Winter 2017 issue

WHEN A FELLOW TEACHER and I took a boat cruise along the coast of Kuwait, we noted the sad state of the Arabian Gulf. Amid the food wrappers, cigarette butts, and plastic bags, we saw dead fish floating on their sides; an indicator that not all was right within the ecosystem below. A walk along the beach treated us to views of food waste, plastic bottles, and even more plastic bags littered across the sandy shoreline. Driving away from the beach, we discussed the need to invigorate the public to address the litter issue, and realized that as educators of locals, we had a role to play.

A country’s most valuable asset is its youth. When passionate about local concerns, they can provide the impetus for positive change and become environmental stewards. Unfortunately, like many schools, our curriculum uses a global approach to environmental education. We teach about global warming, rising sea levels, and disappearing rainforests, but the learning is rarely applied to the socio-ecological issues in our own backyards. We decided to address the local issue of marine debris with our grades 9-12 Sustainability Club students. The resultant project was a collaboration between our club and a local conservation group. The following outlines the steps we took in using socio-ecological mapping as a tool for student engagement, and how it can be used by anyone wanting to study marine debris.

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Aimee Cleary is a science teacher from New Minas, Nova Scotia presently working at Jakarta Intercultural School. She recently taught science at the American School of Kuwait and is currently completing her Masters of Arts in Teaching Zoological Sciences through Project Dragonfly at Miami University’s Global Field Program.

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