I am a Turtle Saver. An Eco-warrior Deluxe! No, I am not a marine biologist. I am a kindergarten teacher. Every time I go out for a morning walk, I pick up roadside rubbish. Each day is a little different but mostly the same – a bag full of plastic, glass or aluminium in different forms. Working as a kindergarten teacher at a Green-Gold EnviroSchool kindergarten until my recent “retirement“, a few years back we explored the theme of plastic waste in one of our missions to share the 3 R’s. We quickly decided to turn that to 5 R’s; Reduce, Reuse, Reuse, Reinvent and Repurpose. (There’s others of course, but we felt happy with the idea that most were covered in those 5 Re’s).
During our discussions of recycling, plastic most inevitably would raise it’s ugly little head, and together with our 3-5 year olds, we teachers learned that turtles LOVE to eat jellyfish. It’s their favourite snack! Of course, a plastic bag floating in the ocean resembles a jellyfish (that deadly-beautiful wafting move it makes in water) and so turtles try to eat them and then often die a slow, agonising death due to asphyxiation! We were horrified. Plastic is light and easily airborne. It can be blown into the ocean from the shore or from boats. We then wondered why and how plastic ends up in the ocean, in the first place! Well, plastic is blown into roadside gutters and when it rains, and then whoosh! it ends up in the ocean. Out to sea it goes.
Of course, we knew all too well the dangers of the”research” that shows if under 5’s are exposed to the dilemmas of the issues of planet degradation, climate change, carbon emissions etc. etc., they can become quite anxious. Well, we decided to share not only the problem with the children, but also the SOLUTION! Of course, not only little people, but even big people around the Globe will feel anxious (and many do) if faced with problems and not practical steps they can take to address the problem!
We would go out for walks around our kindergarten and just pick up plastic or any other litter lying around. The children LOVED it! It was a game! To see how much litter we could spot and bag, kinda like a computer game for little people, only instead of the click of a mouse, it was the actual collecting of litter. We expressed our joy at each and every piece found and would go back to kindergarten with our brimming bags of rubbish and sort them into recyclables and other waste for landfill. The children were empowered by their very own action! We read stories about turtles, we dramatised plastic bag stories with happy endings and even watched short documentaries on plastic bags in the environment.
We started to have parents tell us how amused they were by their children insisting they recycle plastic bottles instead of throwing them in the bin! Some told us their child would remind them to take shopping bags instead of using plastic supermarket bags. One parent shared that her twins seemed to gain as much fun picking up rubbish around the playground while they were out and about, as the “normal” children did playing on the playground equipment! Another shared a photo on her cellphone of her son with plastic chip packets and other plastic waste tucked under his arm, bending to pick up a plastic bottle. This she said, was taken while on the way from parking their car, into the supermarket! She proudly shared that 2 older ladies had commented on how good it was that such a young child was cleaning up the car park, putting them all to shame!
Since that expose’ we did, I have shared this with many a more mature “student” and empowered them to become turtle savers too. A couple of weeks ago, I urged some French and American visitors to go out in our little town, and see if they could save turtles, the by-line is one full bag of rubbish collected equals one turtle saved. We focus on the positives as there is so much plastic out there, we can’t save ALL the turtles but we can save just one each day we play the game!
If we focussed on all the litter we cannot pick up, we would become despondent, but I focus on one turtle at a time. Let us all save a turtle a day, wherever you may be. Our oceans connect us and our turtles swim in those oceans. Will you be brave enough to join the ranks of Ninja Turtle Eco Warriors? If you can’t save one every day, could you save one a week? Even one a month? It means a lot to that turtle you might just save through your courageous actions. Thank you!