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Plastic, Oil Spills, and Bolus: It's Oceans Week at Ocean Shore Elementary School

Students at Ocean Shore School get sandy, wet, and smart while studying Pacifica's surrounding coastline.

Every year, students at delve deep into an inter-curricular thematic unit that covers a surrounding natural element in Pacifica: The ocean. This year's Oceans Week theme is wetlands, and the students at Ocean Shore School have worked diligently to create an interactive museum-like experience for members of their community.

Creative decorations cover nearly every inch of the hallways, and even the ceiling had duck feet surrounded by lily pods hanging from it. Intricate murals depicting shorebirds, marine life, and marsh areas were created by students, who lead their fellow classmates through rotating presentations of what they learned in their grade.

In classrooms, teachers, eighth graders, and special guests presented a variety of interesting hands-on lessons. In a science class, students dissected bolus--albatross vomit--to see what these ocean birds regularly eat from our surrounding beaches. The results were interesting—and sad. Mixed among the typical squid beaks was discarded fishing line, bits of plastic and Styrofoam, and, in one case, a lighter!

At another table, eighth graders showed students how scientists use dish soap to help clean up oil spills. Using tubs filled with water and oil, two students carefully squirted one or two drops of soap in the containers, and while the younger students watched, the oil began to break up in bubbles. These bubbles are important because sunlight can get through the oil and nourish the plankton underneath.

In the back of the room, another table of students sorted plastic with their teacher, Sandy Mills. Using three beakers, each filled with either salt water, pond water or tap water, she showed the students how bits of garbage behave differently in distinctive kinds of water.

When explaining the evolution of plastic to her students, Mills said that in the 1950s, one reason scientists created plastic was for safer containers for household use. But, she concluded, though plastic was “designed to last forever, it was made to throw away.” 

Down the hall in art class, students made press boards with coastal scenes. These press boards were then inked and pressed on paper, creating beautiful impressions.

In another class, another presenter showed students how water runoff effects erosion (see video in the gallery to the right). This water set-up, complete with sand, rocks, and water spigot, was a hit for students who enjoyed being able to see firsthand how water shapes landscapes.

Oceans Week continues at Ocean Shore through May 25.

Teri Voorhes May 25, 2011 at 07:02 PM
I will check in with the Coordinator today. Thanks so much for the offer!
Sandy May 25, 2011 at 08:48 PM
For clarification as Teri mentioned, Every year the entire school embraces "Ocean's Week" with a different theme. This year's theme is Wetlands. Past topics have included The Deep Sea, Coral Reefs, The Rocky Shore, Polar Seas, Ancient Oceans. As a staff, we believe that it is crucial for our students to understand our neighbor, the Pacific, and our interactions with it. :)
Camden Swita May 25, 2011 at 09:24 PM
Thanks for the clarification, Sandy. I changed the article to reflect that.
Suzanne Scafuri May 27, 2011 at 06:11 AM
Yes, thank you for the clarification.
Lynn Adams May 27, 2011 at 08:55 PM
I was able to attend the open house on Wednesday night and have to say the entire school looked AMAZING! I love to go every year and just as I did in the past, I learned a number of things! If only we could all be as smart as these kids. They really get it and this program easily brings tears of joy to my eyes. Way to go Ocean Shore! Another huge ocean success!

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