SAYBROOK TOWNSHIP – Eighty-five fourth graders at Superior Intermediate School began spring projects on Feb. 24 as part of an environmental stewardship and awareness program grant-funded by the Martha Jennings Holden Foundation and organized by Kids for Positive Change, an environmental education nonprofit run by Ashtabula native Camille Licate.
Karen Campbell, fourth-grade teacher at Superior, and Camille Licate, who has led several youth educational programs at Ashtabula Area City Schools, secured a $3,000 mini-grant through the Martha Jennings Holden Foundation to fund the project – which began with a “Foundational Day” event with presentations by Licate and research biologist Lisa Jorgensen.
Presentations centered on three themes: parrots and backyard birds, sharks and seas turtles and bees, bugs and butterflies. Each presentation included information on how environmental degradation and habitat encroachment is threatening animal populations and how immediate action on the children's part can help arrest or reverse the threat.
Children built bagel bird-feeders for local birds, made reusable shopping bags from old t-shirts to help curb plastic waste in oceans and signed a petition asking for action on pesticides that threaten the honeybee population.
After the projects, students formed groups around which of the three causes most interested them and set to work on a longer-term project.
“They'll be getting into 'think tank' groups that will work on that area,” Campbell said. “Three groups will be doing research into endangered species and specific problems causing those species to become endangered and how to stop that from happening. The rest of the school year, we're giving them time to meet.”
Superior fourth-graders will likely also be involved with some sort of cleanup effort during the project, according to Campbell.
Campbell said cleanup efforts involving young children are designed to get them thinking about the environment and their neighborhoods early, hoping it will take root.
“Maybe kids are the route we need to go,” Campbell said.
On May 20, Superior fourth graders will present their findings and propose a course of action to solve the problems they learned about during the Foundational Day event.
Licate splits her time between Ashtabula, where she was born and raised, and New York, where she works in theater.
Pictured is Kids for Positive Change founder Camille Licate demonstrating the size difference in the flight feathers of the Hyacinth macaw (the largest flying parrot species) and the Pacific parrotlet (the second smallest) at a presentation on exotic and local birds during the Feb. 24th Foundational Day event at Superior Intermediate School.