Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Girl Who Loved to Collect Litter


It was a perfect day to be on the river, one of the first really hot days of August.   A group of 7th and 8th grade students from the Lummi Nation Middle School Enrichment Program met us at the Ferndale boat launch.  Staff from Yeager’s Sporting Goods got us set up with canoes, paddles, and PFDs.  Staff from RE Sources’ North Sound Baykeeper Team distributed litter grabbers, plastic bags, and buckets.  After a couple short pep talks about plastic pollution and a safety talk, we set adrift.


Immediately after launching I realized these were no ordinary kids, and we were sitting in what they call “Pocahontas Canoes.”  Many of these kids were seasoned canoe pullers, and others were much more tentative.  The pullers, especially Devon, had a thing or two to teach the rest of us about how to paddle.  I chose Sally as my canoe mate.  She’d only paddled once, but she clearly loved to look for litter.


Cynthia Wilson, a teacher at the Lummi Enrichment Program, told me that the core of the summer program at the Lummi Middle School is teaching kids about the six pillars: respect, honor, courage, responsibility, trust, and citizenship.  She organizes summer activities that encourage learning the pillars.  Collecting litter on the lower Nooksack River was a chance to look at the river in a different way.  “We look at the river for survival and the sustainability of our resources,” she said.  Collecting plastic from the river is a great exercise for responsibility and citizenship. 

North Sound Baykeeper Matt Krogh attended the first annual cleanup with these kids last year.  "We love the opportunity to get out on the water with folks, sharing perspectives while cleaning up our rivers and bays. Getting to learn from Lummi youth during our annual lower Nooksack River clean-up is a special treat,” he said.

My favorite part of the day was watching Sally searching for litter. She leaped out of the canoe every time we found plastic, whether it was hanging from trees or mostly buried in sand. Before the days end we collect several hundred pounds of plastic from the river, including plastic bottles, aluminum cans, a traffic barrier, a tire, a complete set of party dishes and a functioning high quality camera.  Special thanks to Lummi Nation School, the Surfrider Foundation, Yeager’s Sporting Goods, Lindsay Taylor, and RDS, who collected, recycled and/or disposed of all the litter. 

See you next year for another round!


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