As an avid bird watcher, 10-year-old Delaney Hayes worries about the effects of trash on her feathered friends.
Hayes, along with her mother Tiffany, a volunteer conservation outreach specialist, and Black Swamp Bird Observatory director Kim Kaufmann, shared their concerns recently with the Benton-Carroll-Salem School Board.
Delaney read her report to the board about the dangers of balloon releases that she presented this autumn before 122 people at a young birders conference at Toledo Zoo. The Oak Harbor Middle School student spoke for all the birds, turtles, fish and farm animals that face daily challenges as the fallen debris ensnares them in their habitat.
Her goal: to help convince the school board to join the bird observatory staff to create a pilot program called Ohio Coalition of Students Against Litter.
The program would team environmental education with hands on projects to heighten awareness about litter prevention of all kinds.
“We want to partner with the schools to share and empower the students,” Kaufmann explained.
Black Swamp Bird Observatory has a long history of providing nature programs for area children. And even as school districts’ funding situations cause them to cut back on field trips, bird observatory staffers have found grants and other funding to carry on the tradition, Kaufmann said.
The coalition would go one step further. It promises to incorporate the litter prevention mindset within the daily school curriculum.
Superintendent Guy Parmigian noted a large part of Ottawa County’s tourism trade is connected to a healthy environment. He added a litter program such as this opened the door for potential research in science classes.
“It’s similar to a club we had in 2006,” Kaufmann said. “You put the children in the position of teaching. PowerPoint presentations created by the students could even be taken out into the community to inform others. I’m looking forward to working with the schools and explaining the big picture of how we do impact our environment.”
Kaufmann said there would be minimal costs involved but the program would require support across the district – from administrators to teachers.
Board member Jeff Dornbusch wanted to know what age group this program would target.
“K-12, all of them,” Kaufmann answered.
Board member Heather Dewitz suggested the Land Lab used for first graders at R.C. Waters Elementary would a logical place for this program to get its footing in the district.