Grandview Water Warriors Fight Plastic Pollution

Grandview/Uuqinak'uuh Water Warriors

Grandview Elementary
  • Grade 5
  • Grade 6
Photo Essay (3–10 images)

Community Coach(es): 

Michaela from The Zero Waste Program of The Elements Society and The City of Vancouver

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Grandview Water Warriors Fight Plastic Pollution

Who would have thought that a field trip to the Aquarium would spark curiosity and motivate our class to want to be a part of the positive environmental change affiliated with BC Green Games Project. On this field trip we watched the film “Big Picture Conservation” and learned about various marine mammals. We also explored the Vortex exhibit that illustrated the amount and variety of plastics found in the world’s oceans that has also accumulated into the creation of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. In recognizing the impact of ocean plastics and especially by learning about as well as seeing marine mammals up close, our students were immediately motivated to take action. With excitement levels high and creative juices flowing, the Grandview Water Warriors were formed! This green initiative became a collaboration with our grade 2/3 buddy class,  and our ultimate goal was to teach our community about the impacts of plastic pollution on the health and well-being of our oceans and all living things that rely on it. 

After learning more about the topic, our first step towards action was to raise money to support like-minded initiatives already taking place. The Water Warriors made jam, sewed reusable bags, and created a healing salve to be sold at our school’s Winter Celebration. Our talented group of artists created posters with impactful statements about the detrimental state of our planet due to the use of plastics. We also created information boards jam packed with research to bring awareness to our cause. With the hard work from our classes, we completely sold out of our products and raised a whopping $195. Students decided to donate our proceeds back to the Vancouver Aquarium that inspired our projects and to the Coast Protectors,  an Indigenous-led organization which continues to fight against the development of pipelines and tankers that threaten the health of waterways and marine life.

The work of a Water Warrior was not over yet! We then narrowed our focus to changes we could make in our school community. Working with Michaela from the Zero Waste Program of The Elements Society and The City of Vancouver, we conducted a classroom garbage audit. With a critical eye, we investigated the products most commonly being thrown out and recycled so we could see where our own changes needed to be made. In our garbage we found paper towels, some single-use plastics such as Ziploc bags and wrappers, and milk and yogurt containers that came from our school lunch program. Michaela then taught us about proper recycling and about the City of Vancouver’s Zero Waste Approach pyramid. Interestingly enough, we learned that soft plastics could be recycled rather than being sent to our landfills and potentially ending up in our water ways and oceans. We were reminded that our paper towels and uneaten foods are to be placed in the organics bins and we learned that while recycling is good and a step-up from disposal, it is important to reduce, reuse or avoid single-use plastics. 

With all of this new wealth of knowledge gained, we made small changes including a new classroom container for our soft plastics and posters that served as reminders to where our waste goes. However, we really wanted to focus on what we could do to move beyond recycling. Guided by our observations of the amount of yogurt and milk containers found both in the trash and recycling, we decided to hone our efforts to make a change with these materials. Remembering our goal to educate our school and broader community about single-use plastics, we broke up into 3 groups: a research team, communication team, and a data collection team.

Our trusty research team went straight to work collecting data for us to analyze as a class. They found and shared important facts such as 500 billion kg of plastics are produced each year, 90% of seabirds have plastics in their stomachs, and that it can take 450 years for a plastic bottle to break down. The plastic bottle slowly degrades into microplastics that fish, larger marine mammals, and even humans eat, while also releasing harmful chemicals in the process. Our communications team took this collected research to create posters and wrote up a highly informative public announcement for our school. Finally, our data collection team looked at the amount of single-use milk and yogurt containers our school uses. They found that in just one day, Grandview uses approximately 408 single-use plastic containers. In one week that equals 2,040 containers. In one month, 8,160 and in just one school year, 81,600 single-use plastic containers. Students also conducted a school survey and found that while many of the students in our school recycled their milk and yogurt containers, very few rinsed them, leaving yogurt and milk residue behind. This residue could spoil the recyclability of these materials, while others continued to throw them in the garbage. We were astounded by these numbers and knew as a school we could do better. This sparked yet another Water Warrior mission in our school. We wanted to further share this information with our school community to encourage the staff to make larger systematic changes and encourage students to think about how they might contribute to plastic pollution on a daily basis. We have decided to create an art installation that will be displayed in our front lobby. This symbolic installation will be created solely by repurposing recycled materials collected throughout the school to create sculptures of marine life that are often entangled, trapped, or may be harmed due to the consumption of our plastic pollution. 

In recognizing the importance of ongoing changes and small steps forward towards a classroom, a school, and a community that makes conscious decisions in regards to the impacts on our beautiful Mother Earth and the health of our oceans for generations to come, we have created a plan to unveil three upcoming projects. We will be planning a school-wide shoreline clean up,  raise conversations to alternatives we can make in regards to the single-use plastics our school creates, as well as creating another art installation for a local restaurant to raise awareness of the importance of banning single-use plastics such as straws and utensils.

Working on this project has been a highlight for the students so far. It has been important for the students to make some real-life steps towards making positive changes in our school, but it has been even more powerful to see the students view themselves as positive change-makers in this world. Stay tuned for future work by the Grandview/ uuqinak’uuh Water Warriors!

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