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Spruce students design hopes for cleaner future

Spruce Elementary students design their hopes for cleaner future
Posted on 03/16/2021

How did a plastic ice cream scoop end up in The Arctic?


That’s the question teacher Jennie Warmouth asked her 2nd-grade Spruce Elementary School students to consider when the class initiated its Arctic Design Competition late last year.


Warmouth spent several days on a National Geographic-sponsored boat trip to the high arctic in June 2019 after being named a Grosvenor Teacher Fellow.


She arrived at The Arctic aware that millions of microscopic plastic pieces have already made their way into our oceans. What she didn’t expect was to find large plastics – also known as macroplastics – such as plastic bags, packaging materials, and plastic utensils, all around.


She showed students a photo of collected plastics, including an ice cream scoop that bore a close resemblance to the spork – a plastic spoon-fork hybrid – that students could easily relate to.


In response, Warmouth and her students created a single-use plastics policy that included a Silverware Patrol to ensure Lynndale students used metal utensils for lunches and returned them instead of throwing them in the trash.


The next step was the competition, which began in November and ended on Dec. 31 with Spruce Elementary students earning a second place and two honorable mention awards.


“My current second graders and I spent January analyzing and evaluating each piece – using rubrics we designed for assessment,” Warmouth said. “We were critiquing both principles of design and how much the piece motivated conservation.”


Warmouth’s remote-only 2020-21 students also spent some time studying connections between the environmental impacts on polar bears and local black bears.


They spent several months studying black bear cubs at the Progressive Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) Lynnwood center.


“I challenged them to ‘think like bears’ as they applied their STEM skills to design enrichment items that would serve as ‘toys’ for the cubs to engage with that would teach them how to forage for food in the wild,” Warmouth said. “My students created innovative designs and models for the vets to construct at PAWS and each student created a natural fiber piñata for the vets to stuff with locally sourced fruits, nuts, berries and fish to teach the babies to use their noses to locate food and their claws to obtain it.”
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