Fitzpatrick highlights effects of oil spills in APES project visit to elementary

 Ashley Fitzpatrick is a junior in Mrs. Biel’s AP Environmental Science class at Dripping Springs High School.  Her class was required to do a semester long stewardship project, and so she, along with seniors Abby Brack, Aliana Hunt, Michael Geary, Allie Krafka, Mallory Bush, Emily Brunken, and Cole Brownwell took on the challenge.

“The goal of [the project] was to raise community awareness and environmental awareness, so it had to have an environmental community impact.  So you kind of do that however you wanted, and what I chose to do was to raise community awareness by going to the elementary schools and educating people who were younger,” Fitzpatrick said.

The project had to focus on a specific environmental problem that the world was having, and then be able to explain this to the desired audience as effectively as possible.

“We decided our topic was going to be [the effect of] oil spills, so we came up with a kid friendly demonstration for them.  We brought feathers and we had a container of water, one of oil, and one of soapy water.  We had the kids say what they think would happen when we dipped the feather into water; and so feathers naturally repel water and when you dip them in oil it absorbs it and they droop.  This makes them heavier, and so [the birds] can’t fly.  We then talked about how that affects wildlife through that aspect, and showed them what it looks like so that they could grasp the concept a little better,” Fitzpatrick said.

They went to Dripping Springs Elementary, Walnut Elementary, and Rooster Springs Elementary.  The kids were a very accepting audience, and definitely took something away from the presentations.

“I think a lot of [the kids] were surprised. A lot of them thought that feathers would get wet with water just in general.  Realizing how wildlife reacts to different substances, was kind of new for them.  But when we did talk about how oil gets into the water and ways we can reduce oil use, a lot of them seemed to already know some basic concepts about pollution and recycling.  A lot of them were talking about their own experiences at beaches in Texas and seeing pollution and saying how we should really try to clean that up,” Fitzpatrick said.

Cleaning up the oil isn’t easy, but it’s possible. However, there are still complications afterwards that are affecting the area that had been contaminated.  

“Even if you can clean up the oil, by the time it’s all cleaned up, it’s already had such a major impact on the environment,” Fitzpatrick said.

Oil spills are a common occurrence unfortunately. With the use of the resource so high, the amount shipped from overseas continues to rise.  This leads to ships losing their oil, and then once it gets to the mainland it gets used in everything around us.

“When oil gets into the water, it floats on top and is kind of like a barrier, and so if it gets into [birds’] feathers, it makes them not be able to fly.  If it affects one thing in the food chain and affects the rest of the food chain as well and stays throughout it.  If you have a fish that eats some oil, and then a bird eats that fish, the bird consumes that oil,” Fitzpatrick said.

We can all do our part to help lessen and eventually erase the threat of oil spills, but not everyone is all for this idea.

“We really need to look into other [alternatives to oil], and because people are making so much money in [the oil industry] right now that a lot of these people are hesitant to do that,” Fitzpatrick said.

Fitzpatrick and her group talked to mainly 4th, 5th, and 6th graders but hope to branch out to even more age groups in the coming semester if they continue with this project.

“It’s important to educate people in the younger generations because they are the ones who are going to grow up and have the new jobs [that will determine the fate of oil],” Fitzpatrick said.  “And it’s important that they know that they should be looking into jobs that are going to help save the planet rather than continue to destroy it.”    

Written by Giselle Galletti    

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