LA Students Put Plastic Pollution Under the Microscope in Chile

  • 06/05/2018
  • Mark Friedman

By Mark Friedman, Contributing Writer

A group of high school students and teachers from Los Angeles recently returned from Chile’s prestigious Coastal Laboratory of Aquatic Resources in Calfuco, just outside of Valdivia. Students participated in a workshop structured to develop their awareness and expertise relating to the protection and care of the oceans.

The PAR Explora of CONICYT Los Ríos joined this final initiative aimed at teachers to provide methodological tools to stimulate students in scientific research. The initiative also aimed to motivate students to care for the environment, especially that of the oceans and the entire ecosystem that it comprises.

The educational activities began May 7. Elementary and middle school students of various educational establishments in the Valdivia region, were taught about microplastic pollution and research. The aim was to galvanize new recycling programs and greater consciousness of the plastic impact on marine organisms and humans through ingestion of marine shellfish and fish.

Emphasis in these workshops was to complement the learning objectives of subjects such as natural sciences, history, geography, mathematics, language and communication, and visual arts. That points to the critical and reflective thinking of scientific research. Teachers and students physically examined local beach sand with plastic particles and dissected boluses (stomach contents) of albatross chicks that died from plastic consumption.

Carolina Rodríguez, environmental education educator in schools from North Patagonia to Southern South, pointed out how interesting it is to be able to apply practical activities with students to guide them to discover the effects of human beings on the oceans.

“It is very important to teach school children how to identify the different types of plastics and fight them,” Rodriguez said. “In addition to learning the methodologies, it is essential to see how to prevent the entry of this material into the ecosystem. It is important to see the ecology in another way, not only in a way that the human being uses it and how it affects us, but also to value it for itself and see that the other organisms that live on the planet have the right to live in a healthy environment free of our trash.” 

All this was possible thanks to a scholarship given by the U.S. Embassy to the Faculty of Sciences of the Austral University of Chile. Coordinating this effort in Chile were Carla Christie and Paula Marin. Support also came from the United States with a grant from Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn and materials donated for the workshops by  Algalita, Ocean Conservancy, 5Gyres, LA Maritime Institute, HHMI Medical Institute Winged Ambassadors and City2Sea.

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