The Guajome Girls Preservation Foundation is committed to making a positive environmental impact on our school environment with hands on projects that involve students picking up trash, recycling, and removing invasive plants from our school site. Our school is located on a wetlands preserve, so cleaning up our school means cleaning up our wetlands as well. The name of our project is called, “Trash It Nation.” For this project, we organized our friends, obtained assistance from our teachers and our school, created our own language, and set out to clean up our school by inspiring students to take their trash and trash it in a trash can. Along the way we recycled paper, junk mail, boxes, envelopes, magazines, plastic bottles, and glass containers.
Every student or individual that has assisted us, shares the same interests that we have. That is, to clean up our school, to preserve our wetlands, and to teach others how to become environmentalists and make a difference, one action at a time.
The amount of trash we took out of our wetlands during this project was intense. There were so many candy wrappers; we were truly shocked how careless people can be. There was trash everywhere. There were plastic bottles, fast food wrappers, foils of all kind, cans, and a variety of plastics from small to large. We collected 18 large trash bags full of paper trash, and 175 plastic bottles and cans. During this project we added hundreds of pounds of recyclables to that total.
The amount of junk we removed from along the road near our wetlands was also amazing. The road was cluttered with all kinds of stuff. We removed large pieces of wood, metal pieces, plastic sheets, road and construction material, metal wire, cement blocks, and large bales of hay.
We opened the flow of running water under our wetlands bridge by removing the trash and invasive plants under the bridge. One of the major things we accomplished with this restoration project at our school was removing the invasive palms under the bridge which was blocking the natural flow of water. Underneath the bridge, it was filled with accumulated trash and palm trees that we removed. The water went from a slow trickle with several veins, to a restored flow that slowly regained its natural path.
Our school is located on a wetlands preserve. The environmental health of our school environment is related to the health our wetlands, and to us, cleaning up our school also means cleaning up our wetlands. The initial idea for this project came from the fact that we got tired of everyone talking about making our Guajome wetlands a better place, but no one doing anything about it. We did not want to become another group to just talk about making a difference. So we decided to start cleaning up the wetlands ourselves. It has been stated that in order to clean up our wetlands it was going to take money, effort, and man power to make a difference. To increase the problem, we have seen far too often that nobody wants to pay to clean-up our wetlands. So this is when we decided to do it ourselves and improve the environmental health of our school on our terms. We walked right outside our classroom doors and started picking up trash, recycling and removing invasive plant species from our school.
We realized the community always talks about improving our Guajome Wetlands, but we have never seen anybody out there working to preserve them. The community issue always gets back to who is responsible for paying for the clean-up. Also, wetlands preservation always seems to be expressed as this huge financial issue. We came up with the idea of cleaning small parts of our wetlands, a little bit at a time. Instead of debating this financially, we got the idea to get out there and do it ourselves. We just started cleaning up our wetlands, one corner of our school at a time!
Making a Plan
The goals we created for this project were to pick up all the trash around our school and wetlands and remove all unnecessary junk to improve the ecosystem near our classrooms. We wanted to fix up a corner of our wetlands where students could sit and draw or enjoy a good book. We also wanted to remove as many invasive plants as we could and transplant them in containers if possible. Our plan was to make our wetlands environment a better ecosystem for everything that lives there. We set a goal to recruit our friends to help with the clean-up, and together, make our school and our wetlands a beautiful place. Within our goals, we came up with ideas like having a poster contest, creating blogs to generate interest, and making a web site to post our progress on the internet.
Our Goals As We Developed
• Recruit forty friends to assist us with our clean-up goals of picking up all the trash around our wetlands, and increasing the recycling around our school.
• Create a set of rules for students to follow near our wetlands.
• Identify and remove as many invasive plant species as possible.
• Make an artist’s corner where people can relax and draw.
• Have a school poster contest to promote protecting our wetlands.
• Create an internet blog and web site to generate community interest in our project.
Our school has played a big role in allowing our project to be a success. They have supported our ideas and allowed us to get involved in things we wanted to do for our school. They have supported our teachers and as a result, students have been able to get involved and participate in our ideas. If the teachers said “no,” then the students would not be able to get involved. The teachers said it was o.k. because our school administration allowed them to let their students get involved. As our project has grown from local to global, we have been allowed to travel, write press releases, letters to the editors of the world press, and represent our school on a global level. The support of our school has been the reason we have been able to implement so many ideas. Listed below are just a few challenges we had to go through where our school was needed for support, and they came through for us every time. Also, the Board of Guajome Park Academy has supported us by approving our ideas and letting us be creative with our ideas.
1. Getting permission to work in the areas we picked.
2. Finding who owned all the trash stuff just hanging around.
3. Obtaining permission from the teachers.
4. Getting working tools.
5. Picking the rules when working in the wetlands.
6. Finding who owned the trash.
7. Removing the weeds.
8. Finding the right team to assist us in cleaning up the bigger jobs.
Team photographer, supplies coordinator, all technology issues, web design, writer, organizing all ASB fundraising issues, everything that needs to get done!
Ashley the Emailer
Team photographer, writer and editor, web design.
Responsible For national wetlands development programs in the United States, developing Guajome Girls Preservation Foundation blog, “Keepers of the Wetlands,” organizing students and student activities, writer and editor.
Students interesting in helping us with our project have a number of responsibilities to accomplish. These activities are organized and coordinated and checked off our list when they are accomplished. We set schedules and time lines to complete our activities. Some of the tasks students perform include the following responsibilities.
Making Posters, making flyers , coordinating teams from Period 1 and Period 5 , finding tools, asking permission for activities , poster contest, arranging locations for the poster contest , presentations, presentations to other classes, student photography, figuring out activities, location of activities, making land plans, planning, technology, typing, putting things on disk, printing, spell check, writing for the group, lead writer, lead editor, phrases, monitoring clean up at the wetlands, making schedules, and wetlands photographer.
This project continues to grow and develop into a global perspective of protecting the wetlands. We still have a strong foundation in what we do because the wetlands are right outside our door. We continue to pick up trash and recycle and do our best to keep our school clean, yet everyday someone comes up with a new idea that expands our original idea into something new. And with it, comes a new group of students and interested participants. To us, the continual growth and interest in what we are doing is sustainability and it is always gaining momentum. Here are a few examples of what we are talking about.
First, we have always stayed dedicated to the wetlands in our own back yard. Then, we began to concern ourselves with the wetlands in the state of California. Finally, we shifted our ideas to a global perspective by looking at the wetlands as a world-wide topic. Everything came together. Each of us picked a project that we focused on and everyone helped each other out with their projects. In a short time, we went from a poster contest and picking up trash, to a web site that generated more than 100,000 hits from 50 different countries. We emailed and wrote to 35 world leaders about their endangered wetlands. Then, we went out into the field and learned for ourselves what needed to be accomplished. We planned how to make a difference as a team, and then we did it.
Our ideas to involve the community needed to include things that would not cost any money. Also, we had to get as many ideas as we could from our friends. It happened for us. Everyone stepped up and contributed. Some of the ways we involved the community are listed below. These ideas are from us and our friends. These are just some of things we did to involve the community.
1. I told my dad about it because he cares.
2. I talked to my cousin about the environment because he loves nature.
3. I told my best friend Anthony who is at another school.
4. We wrote the mayor of our city a letter because he can make decisions about this issue.
5. I wrote a letter to the city council about protecting our wetlands because they have a certain amount of authority in our class.
6. I wrote a letter to the governor about helping to clean up our wetlands because he could someday make an important decision about our wetlands.
7. I’m going to tell my friends that don’t go to this school not to pollute the wetlands.
8. I’m going to tell someone in Vista to treat the wetlands like it was their own back yard. Because it is.
9. I’m going to tell my friend Jose. Because, basically, he does not mind to get his hands dirty and would come and help if I called him.