News

Upper School Students Champion Water Quality in Sarasota

Reece Whatmore ’21 and Harper Campbell ’23 were selected as two of only 50 students in the nation to join EarthEcho as EarthEcho Water Challenge Ambassadors. Their first outreach project was to hold a community program to educate about the importance of water quality. They chose to work with ODA Lower School students.
This summer Harper Campbell ‘23 and Reece Whatmore ‘21 were selected as two of only 50 students in the nation to join EarthEcho as EarthEcho Water Challenge Ambassadors. The network of young leaders across the United States leads community-based water monitoring events, educational outreach events, and watershed restoration projects. 
 
For Reece, this new opportunity is a natural extension of more than two years of extensive research utilizing oysters as natural filters to help clean the water of Sarasota Bay. In 2019, she and fellow senior Supawadee Surattanont delivered presentations at the Sarasota Institute and were the recipients of several Sarasota County STEM fair awards for their research. Harper became fascinated with water restoration after completing her Passion Project in Mr. Andy Lemieux’s class last year. She recognized the great need to not only participate in the program for herself, but to share this information with others to help educate the broader community. Together they founded the nonprofit Gulf Protection Pledge, committed to working with local restaurants to encourage the use of environmentally friendly practices and reduce the use of single-use plastics.
 
In August, the ODA students attended EarthEcho’s virtual Youth Leadership Summit led by Philippe and Alexandra Cousteau, grandchildren of the legendary explorer and marine conservationist Jacques-Yves Cousteau. The students came away from the program filled with ideas and information on how to run educational workshops and share information about the ocean, ocean health, water monitoring, conservation, and more. 
 
As Water Challenge Ambassadors, Harper and Reece perform water quality tests and submit blog entries each month. This information becomes freesource material for the ambassadors to share and integrate into their outreach programs. Their first outreach project was to hold a community program to educate about the importance of water quality. They chose to work with ODA Lower School students.
 
“We decided to go to the classroom because ODA having marine biology fits in perfectly,” said Reece. “I know ODA is really focused on sustainability, so this program gave us a great opportunity to reach out to Mrs. Cheney to see if we could work with her class.”
 
The Upper Schoolers worked with Mrs. Cheney to identify a class of third graders whose current lesson plans would tie in with their program. They collected water samples from three bodies of water; a local lake, the Hudson Bayou, and the Gulf of Mexico, and assembled water sample testing kits for each student to be able to have the hands-on experience of performing the experiment. Knowing they would be delivering their program through Zoom, Harper and Reece prepared an engaging, comprehensive presentation for the class to reference during their program. 
 
After an introduction to the concept of water testing and explaining the need to improve water quality, Harper guided the group through the testing process while Reece performed the test in real time to provide a visual example. The students interacted with the Upper Schoolers, asking questions while they worked through their experiment. Once their individual water samples were tested, they compared the samples to those that Harper and Reece had collected to make the identification of where they were from. The group talked about the importance of water conservation, and discussed ideas on how they could improve water quality. 
 
Reece said that she hopes that the third graders takeaway includes “increasing their awareness of the way an individual’s actions affect the ocean and the ocean’s health, and how even though it seems like it is a big issue, every person can have a direct impact on it...I also like the idea of introducing the idea of the accessibility of science and citizen science [to the students].”
 
“I am really excited for the students to learn about [the water quality issue] now. I didn’t learn about it until last year during my Passion Project and I realized this was a problem that needs to be fixed,” said Harper. “But if you get students to learn about earlier, when they’re younger, they are more aware of the issues and they have even more time to try to work on fixing the problem.” 
 
For more information about EarthEcho International, visit https://earthecho.org
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