The Western Snowy Plover, a “cute little shorebird” that lives along the California coast, is the subject of Shore Wars: The Shore Awakens, an educational movie written, filmed, edited and produced by Mount Madonna School (MMS) fifth grade students. On Friday, April 8, the students will share their seven months works related to their plover environmental project and hold a free public screening of the movie.
This event will begin at 6:00pm at the Tannery World Dance Center Studio, 1060 River Street, #111, Santa Cruz.
Every year the MMS fifth grade class chooses to do a substantial, cross-curricular project that addresses a local environmental concern. This year the students are focusing on the Western Snowy Plover, a species classified as threated by the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife. Their project includes research and education, public awareness and community service aspects.
Last December the students visited Palm Beach at the mouth of the Pajaro River in Watsonville to observe the wintering snowy plovers and learn from avian ecologist Carleton Eyster of Point Blue Conservation Science about the plovers and threats to their survival. Some of the students met up with Point Blue again on April 2, for Point Blue’s annual “Mud Stomp” at the Moss Landing Wildlife Area salt ponds, an activity that helps prepare terrain for the nesting birds.
In February, the students literally met the birds on their own turf, travelling to Moss Landing State Beach to assist in replanting and restoring the dunes. This effort was in collaboration with Katie Pofahl from Elkhorn Slough Foundation to plant native plants where the invasive ice plant had been removed. The native plants were grown by the Foundation from seeds gathered from local plants. The fifth grade students replanted a section of dunes at the end of Jetty Road at Moss Landing State Beach with Dune Buckwheat, Silky Beach Pea, Beach Verbena, Saltbush, Locoweed, Lizard’s tail, Beach Burr, Gumplant, Beach Sagewort and Mock Heather. They also gathered seeds with permission to grow the native plants in a MMS greenhouse for the Foundation to use for a future planting.
“The goal of our field trip was too pull up the invasive plants in the snowy plover habitat and replant the natural habitat so the plover can nest on the dunes,” explained fifth grader student Sam Kaplan.
“I thought it was really fun when we replanted the habitat; and although it felt like it was such a small step because there was so much ice plant and trash around, I realized in the end that it’s not about making the world completely eco-friendly and fixing it all, it’s about doing your part or all you can.”
A few weeks ago and joined by their preschool, kindergarten and ninth grade buddies, parents, teachers and members of the Save Our Shores organization, students conducted a beach cleanup at Palm Beach.
“The follow through on the Mount Madonna School students’ work, from identifying a problem to executing solutions, is totally inspiring,” commented Matt Miller, a Save Our Shares program manager, acknowledging the students’ effort and commitment to the Snowy Plover and their project.
Mentoring the students on their project are fifth grade teachers Jessica Cambell and Nate Rockhold, who say the project is a great way to empower their students to get involved in their local communities with issues that matter to them.
“We want our students to connect with community partners to strengthen the students’ project because it allows the students to become active citizens in their community and learn about the work that various organizations do to support the environment,” explained Cambell. “It is also great for these community partners to share their work and message with the students to inspire change in the children long term.
“Several students were so impressed with an Elkhorn Slough docent we met, that they expressed a desire to volunteer for them in the future or have a job like hers in the future. So, rather than having students only learn about environmental threats from classroom work, we believe in getting our students out there to experience the waste and invasive species first-hand – and feel that with their fifth grade voices and fifth grade hands they can truly make a long-term difference.”
“Our goal is to help the snowy plover habitat to allow the plovers to nest,” shared Isabella Cambell. “We wanted to pick up trash to prevent them from eating the trash since it is a major threat for plovers and other animals. I really want to grow the seeds we collected so that we can plant some more of the habitat and continue helping the plover and other animals.”
“Our class wanted to replant Snowy Plover because one of the major threats is habit destruction,” added classmate Eve Willis. “The invasive species don’t keep the sand in place on the dunes,” she explained. “The native plants stop the sand from blowing away and even catch it. We picked up a lot of trash, and a bigger cleanup of the slough is still really needed. I was shocked at all the trash I saw, and thought it would be neater because it is a protected area. Together, we got a lot done, and even though it was a lot of work, I would like to do more in the future.”
The students also met with Jackie Nunez of The Last Plastic Straw (thelastplasticstraw.org) who talked with them about the movement in Santa Cruz to have local restaurants to voluntarily refrain from serving straws with beverages (unless requested). Straws are one of the leading types of beach plastic pollution, and they easily degrade into microplastic. Thereby affecting the survival of the plovers and other animals.
“As teachers our goal is to help each child develop as citizens, to realize they have a voice and that each action can make a difference in our society,” commented Cambell. “Recently there was a National Public Radio interview about how the younger generations seem to have a lack of desire to vote or engage in community action. It noted that the number one reason those interviewed gave for this, was individuals didn’t think they could make a difference. This is exactly why Sri Gyan [James McCaughan] and I started this program many years ago: to help children to understand that they can make a difference and can change the world for the better if they are active citizens.”
“Through our work, I feel like we really helped the animals, the plover and our own future,” said fifth grader Vivienne Chankai. “We know if we don’t do anything to help the environment, it all will be gone, and I like feeling like I am helping to change things for the better.”
Apr 08, 2016