As a kid, did you ever wonder what happens to litter? When kids are asked today they have two common answers, “Someone else picks it up or it stays there”. Some may also respond that wind blows it around or it gets washed into those big rectangular holes in the street. For many though, it is hard to wrap their heads around the concept that litter travels much farther distances beyond their neighborhoods and schoolyards. It blows their mind that it may travel as far as the ocean.
A new children’s book, Watershed Adventures of a Water Bottle, brings to light the story of a water bottle’s journey in the Chesapeake Bay watershed and Atlantic Ocean. Upon reaching a storm drain, the personified water bottle travels the streams and rivers of Washington, D.C., meeting animals along its ride. Each animal—from the water strider to the loggerhead turtle—teaches the water bottle about itself, its origins, its journey, and those of other pollutants in the watershed. Alima is the five-year old water bottle’s heroine; making us all believe we can be one too.
The inspiration for this story came to me more than eight years ago when I taught a series of environmental classes to children in the Montgomery Housing Partnership’s after-school program. Using a large map during one class, the kids and I created a story and mapped the travels of a juice box from their apartment’s playground, through a storm drain, into Long Branch stream and to the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean. We brainstormed and discussed the animals it may encounter along the way and the harmful impacts the juice box would have on them.
Stories help children understand and bring alive history, issues, relationships and problems, such as pollution in our watersheds in Watershed Adventures of a Water Bottle. Stories often energize adults and children to take action to solve the problem narrated. For us all, it is important to learn about the harmful effects of litter on our streams, rivers and oceans but it is equally important for kids to observe and verbalize the impacts litter has on their space. For it is this that can also ignite a desire to remove and reduce litter in their neighborhoods and schools which results in cleaner waterways for animals and us.