61. The LWR* Project
The 'Love What Remains' (LWR) Project: Due to carbon dioxide accumulation and a predicted ocean temperature increase of up to 6 degrees C, scientists are predicting a mass extinction of flora and fauna over the next 100-200 years. The causes are many: over-use of resources by "the apex predator", loss of habitat, aberrant global weather, and more. I propose engaging the next generation, by putting "a face" on at-risk species and letting curiosity lead K-8 students to real and specific solutions. "First hook the heart, and the mind will follow."
I propose a scalable model, using "California" (K-8 students) as a starting point. Here's the plan: A school votes on an animal or tree (plant/flower) in their state that is dwindling, endangered or at-risk (due to climate change overpopulation, etc.) Students study and observe their choice for one year, research the environmental stressors and devise a plan to save it. Importantly, the model specifies trips to the habitat, visits to a sanctuary or rescue organization, plant incubator or seed bank. The hoped-for outcome is that each child will become a passionate expert on, and advocate for, that mammal, bird, fish, tree or insect. Integrative skills will involve critical thinking, research, mathematics, reading and writing, music and art. At the end of the study period, students will "make change happen" by sending their solutions to decision-makers, advocacy groups (such as Earth Justice, Defender's of Wildlife) and op-ed pages. Students will also (on behalf of their at-risk species) take part in Earth Day and other high-visibility sustainability events. In California, we have a range of at-risk species, including the California Condor, Burrowing Owl, Spotted Owl, Monarch Butterfly, Bald Eagle, California Brown Pelican, Honeybee, Salmon, Sea Otter, Black Toad, Santa Cruz long-toed Salamander and Wolverine to choose from. In our State, with the U.S.'s highest population, 79 animals and 223 plants are on the endangered list. A nearby example for study and observation is the Golden Eagle, which is thriving in the East Bay for reasons not fully understood, but under extreme environmental stress elsewhere due to loss of habitat, loss of food sources and collisions with power lines. Threatened fauna range from the Giant Sequoia and the Engelman Oak to the Tree Anemone. Habitat study could focus on the Bay Peninsula restoration, Marsh habitat (San Mateo) and the health of coastal wetlands for birds.
Why it should be recognized:
Engagement and passion are mighty swords. Let's arm our children to fight for a living creature or a softly canopied tree so that they can proudly point to it and say to their grandchildren, "We did it!"