Rockdale Academy students remove a ton of waste from the Ohio River—literally, a ton

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Two thousand pounds. That’s the amount of waste Rockdale Academy students removed from the Ohio River one Friday afternoon in late August.

A group of sixth-grade students, staff, and community partners from the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden took global conservation concepts and applied them to an out-of-classroom excursion focused specifically on pollution in the Ohio River. 

“We are showing the students that their new school vision of ‘Global Conservation & Health’ starts in our own backyard,” said Fia Cifuentes of the Cincinnati Zoo.

The service-learning experience kicked off with a presentation from Living Lands and Waters. The workshop helped educate students about the varied causes and complex consequences of river pollution, sparking motivation for the tasks ahead that afternoon.

“We have the tendency to think that our garbage is thrown away and ends up where it should be, like a landfill or recycling center. Sadly, that’s not always the case,” said Dr. Terry Scott, Rockdale science teacher for grades 4-6. “Many of our natural landmarks, rivers, parks and habitats are overwhelmed with garbage that is literally destroying and consuming life.”

While students got to enjoy some views of the river and feel the excitement of riding on a boat, the most important aspect of the day was making connections between the Vision 2020 curriculum they were learning about in the classroom and acting on it in the community. They held open discussions throughout their afternoon activities about how trash could have ended up where it did, and what they could do to prevent it in the future in their own lives. 

The students share these simple things you can do to reduce river pollution and its negative impact:

  • Refrain from using one-time plastics such as straws, bags, eating utensils and bottles. Also refrain from using Styrofoam (it doesn’t decompose in a landfill).
  • Save water in your toilet by putting a brick or a half-gallon container in the toilet tank to reduce water use per flush.
  • Avoid using a garbage disposal and keep solid wastes solid.
    • Super tip: Fruit and vegetable scraps make great contributions to a compost pile!
  • Do not pour fat from cooking or any other type of fat, oil, or grease down the sink.
  • Do not use the toilet as a wastebasket—do not dispose of household chemicals or cleaning agents down the toilet (or sink). Do not flush pills or medication down the toilet.
  • Do not pour motor oil and other automotive fluids into storm sewer systems.
  • If you have chemicals or fluids to dispose of, keep an eye out for a waste collection day in your community where these items can safely be disposed of.

Read more about Rockdale’s Vision 2020 focus on Global Conservation.

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