As part of the “Mountains to Sea: Water Connects Us All” day at the high school, students participated in interactive stations where they learned about environmental challenges on earth today. About 25 kids at a time entered the Geodome, a 35ft diameter, inflatable dome with a wraparound screen theatre to view a video, kind of like an IMAX. The NC Aquariums and NC Museum of Natural Sciences produced the video, and this statewide project was funded through a grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The Geodome gave students an inside look at how scientists learn and collect data about climate change and the effects on mammals that live in the world’s oceans. The presentation includes cold-water animals such as fur seals and polar bears “because although it’s a global phenomenon, the effects of climate change at present are more evident at the poles,” states a producer of the video.
The Animal Adaptation station provided another connection to our changing world as Meghan Baker, Agricultural Extension Agent, and Jesse Pope, Grandfather Mountain Naturalist shared how adaptations can help or hinder animals survival on earth during changing climates. For example, the feeding of a baleen whale differs from a toothed whale, as they each have specialized adaptations for their prey. Students got to touch real baleen from a humpback whale and a tooth from an Orca, and identify how food availability can be a challenge if the whale is adapted to eating a certain kinds of foods and those foods start to diminish.
Students also learned about the “Life Cycle of Plastic” from Watauga Counties Recycling Coordinator Lisa Doty and Appalachian Voices AmeriCorp Volunteer, Erin Savage. They shared that plastic is derived from fossil fuel energy resources, and that recycling plastic bottles saves 90% of the energy needed to produce plastic. The kids got to participate in a blind taste test to see if they could tell a difference from tap, bottled, and well water. The majority of kids could not tell a difference but a few disliked the bottled water from the grocery store shelf. The whole point was that bottled water most of the time is no better than your tap! And we could save a lot of money and resources by reusing water bottles. $100 billion is spent on bottled water per year, and 1,500 plastic bottles end up as trash every second. Plastic bottles were banned from landfills in NC in 2009, and North Carolina residents still only recycles 18% of plastic bottles. It can take 700 years for plastic to decompose, filling up our landfills and using fossil fuels to produce. Which is unfortunate because Plastic Recycling = 14,000 jobs in NC!!! Recycled plastic bottles can make clothing, carpet, plant pots, kayaks, toys, plastic lumber, playground equipment, and much more!
In fall of 2011, the world’s population reached 7 billion people. As humans continue to populate and consume the earth’s natural resources we must learn to adapt to changing environments and cope with the diminishing limited resources. We don’t know what the future holds, but we can each do our part by making conscious and mindful decisions when it comes to how we consume!