Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Guest blog: A visit to Save The Bay

By Megan Stoessell, The Lincoln School

A soft breeze. Salty air. One ribbed mussel in a small palm. Ducks calling. That freighter in the distance. A visit to Save The Bay plays to the senses in a way that immerses Lincoln School girls in their natural habitat—Narragansett Bay.

On May 18, the beneficiaries of Lincoln's partnership with Save The Bay were third through fifth graders, who huddled over buckets, looking for signs of life along the rocky shoreline along Fields Point in Providence.

"It's so cool," Kate Zarski exclaimed.

"When we do field trips we're not always in nature," Olivia Vincent added. "And on this one we get to explore."

Explore they did, using laminated guides to identify creatures and then share their findings, including the invasive Asian shore crab. "They have just taken over everything," environmental educator Alexandra Karaczynski said. "It's wild!"

Also wild was her tip to hum to the periwinkle, which responded to the noise by showing its operculum, or "eyes," as one student shouted. Indeed, all eyes were open.

See the pictures from the day

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Growing Threat of Marine Debris

By July Lewis, Volunteer and Internship Manager

As Volunteer & Internship Manager at Save The Bay, I am proud to lead our shoreline cleanup program and the International Coastal Cleanup in Rhode Island. I see firsthand the problem of trash on our shores and in our Bay. Volunteer cleanups are an essential way of getting trash off our beaches, but we need so much more action on this issue. That’s why I was excited when our Executive Director, Jonathan Stone, was asked to testify on marine debris at an oversight hearing of the Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Fisheries, Water, and Wildlife.

The hearing includes alarming testimony from experts on the growing threat of marine debris – in particular, plastics. If you have the time, it is well worth watching. It details how plastics are accumulating in the marine environment. Plastics do not biodegrade, they merely break down into smaller and smaller pieces of plastic, which bear toxins that are absorbed into the organisms that we eat. And more and more of it enters the oceans every day.

Much of the testimony was focused on debris in the Pacific. A major concern there is the number of middle-income countries whose waste management systems are not keeping up with their rapidly-growing economies and consumption rates.

But other nations are not the whole problem. During his testimony, Jonathan Stone presented a video to the committee in which I literally dig into the mix of plastic fragments that have become part of the mulch on the shores of Narragansett Bay. As he pointed out in the hearing, “None of this plastic comes from the Pacific.” And yet, here it is – millions of fragments of plastic on the shores, in the water, in the sediments and in the fish that we eat. This is our trash. We are part of a wealthy nation with a well-developed waste management system – so what’s our excuse? Simply, carelessness allows plastics to continue to flow into Narragansett Bay and the Atlantic waters beyond.

We need to raise awareness that littering is not merely an aesthetic issue. We need to convey the message that every bottle cap and straw that enters the water adds to the plastic soup and does not go away. We need to let people know that a plastic bag entering a storm drain on a city street travels straight to a river and into the Bay. And we need people to care.

I’ll end with an anecdote and, hopefully, a vision for the future: years ago, I attended a conference of International Coastal Cleanup organizers and I was chatting with another organizer while we were on a boat tour of the local harbor. Suddenly the wind gusted and blew the straw out of her drink! It flew to the back of the boat and was caught in some rigging just above the water. Without missing a beat, she kicked off her sandals, sat on the edge of the boat in her sun dress, reached out with her foot and grabbed the straw with her toes. Everyone on the boat applauded. Not one more straw in the ocean, not on our watch! If we are to stem the tide of plastics building up in our ocean, this is the kind of dedication we need from everyone.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Why do we swim? To Create Memories

By Brittney Roy, Events Intern

Daniela Abbott, 34, has lived in Rhode Island for many years with her husband Branden and their children Bianca and Myles. Although Daniela grew up swimming in Brazil, and she and her husband have many friends who’ve done the Swim, they’ve never quite found the right reason to dive in themselves. Until now.

A diagnosis of ALS last fall for Daniela’s mother, Marcia Hansen, enticed Marcia and Daniela’s father Jeffrey to move from Minnesota to Portsmouth, R.I. to be closer to Daniela and her family and their son John Victor (JV). This year’s 40th Save The Bay Swim is meant to give the family a distraction from the changes that lie ahead for them all, to create beautiful new memories together, and to give the Hansens the best possible introduction to Narragansett Bay and their new home.

In their very first Save The Bay Swim, Daniela and brother JV will swim the 1.7 nautical miles, with her husband and father kayaking alongside them. They call themselves Team Bonito, for the fast, native South Atlantic fish from the mackerel family, which also happens to mean “beautiful” in Portuguese.

“Mom is very excited that we are all doing it together and is looking forward to welcoming us at the finish!” says Daniela. “This is a good cause, and I hope to document the events with pictures, video, and stories and to share with others our experience as first-timers.”

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Guest Blog - Making an Impact

By Lauren Farnsworth, Save The Bay Education Specialist 

One of the most gratifying things any educator can hear is that their teaching made an impact or influenced someone in some small way. These moments often come in the form of excited squeaks when we’re out on the boat, like this winter, during a seal tour, when one excited young participant screamed, “This is better than Christmas!!!” I truly didn’t think anything could top that. But this March, I was lucky enough to experience another victory during our program with the Providence After School Alliance (PASA).  And this victory was so much more satisfying.

As part of the PASA program, students from Gilbert Stuart Middle School take a bus, twice a week, straight to us after their school day ends.  As soon as those bus doors open, an excited stampede of students floods the front lobby. Except for Alex, who stood out among his peers because of his blatant disinterest in all aspects of our programming, from games to lab work and everything in between. Alex also had a sibling in the group, and their constant bickering made made it hard for other students to concentrate and made things much more difficult for all of us.  We ended up separating the pair at the beginning of each session. I honestly never thought Alex had any interest in our program because of his attitude and persistent sarcasm.

Then, on a day in March when the sun was shining and the long winter finally seemed to be coming to an end, we decided to get the kids outside for the day. We taught a habitat lesson, and then asked students to create their own habitats outside, in groups of four, with nothing more than a blanket and some twine. Everything else had to be found in nature. The students went above and beyond our expectations, creating wonderful structures with everything an animal would need to survive. I was so impressed with their determination and hard work; each group proudly displayed their structure and gave us a thorough explanation of their process.

Something was missing.

I didn’t have to intervene constantly and separate students; I wasn’t asking the group to quiet down so I could explain safety rules. They were listening. Eyes were focused, and every single child was engaged and working at the potential we knew they were capable of.

At the end of the day, as the students hurried out toward the parking lot, Alex slowly lingered in the hallway. I went over to see what was going on, since he was normally one of the first out the door. He shyly looked up at me and asked if he would be allowed back for another session with Save the Bay. “I know I haven’t been so great this year, but I really love the program. My favorite part of the day is coming here, and I really want to come back.” I was completely taken aback. I was so happy to hear that the one student I didn’t think I could reach, actually enjoyed our time together! I told him we would love to have him back for another session and also mentioned the summer scholars program to him.

I hope to see Alex back at the Bay Center soon, and welcome the opportunity, and the challenge, of meeting more students each day.