Teacher, students surprised with SeaWorld tickets

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By Taylor Robbins

Sharon Thomas, a third-grade teacher at Panola Way Elementary School and her students were surprised and given tickets to SeaWorld after the group learned about and spread the word of how plastic can be harmful to the environment.

“I didn’t know what to think,” said Thomas. “It was totally wonderful. I was just doing what I do in the course of a day─teaching science. Teaching children to be thinkers and learners and I had no idea that all of this would come of it. But I’m excited and elated about it. It’s a wonderful opportunity for my students.”

Thomas’ students gave presentations May 7 on what they had learned about preventing plastic from getting into oceans and other bodies of water. Thomas decided to teach her class about the importance of not using single-use plastic items after Thomas took a family trip to SeaWorld Orlando and was told the park had stopped providing straws and lids to park patrons.

After learning that the elimination of single-use plastic items was to decrease pollution and save animals, Thomas decided to include the subject in her teachings.

The class conducted research on how plastic can harm oceans and the fish, mammals, turtles and other sea creatures that live in oceans. The class also studied alternatives to single-use plastic items─reusable water bottles and recycling.

In 2050, there will be more trash in the water than fish and other inhabitants in the water, according to third grade student Jakayla Crutchfield. During the students’ presentation, Crutchfield told her audience that fish eating plastic can in turn hurt humans who eat fish.

Teacher, left, and her third-grade class were recently given to SeaWorld Orlando and the Georgia Aquarium May 7. Photo by Taylor Robins.

For the group, the experience of their research has become a life-changing one. Thomas said that her family now uses a water filter instead of buying cases of bottled water on a regular basis. Delano Martin, Thomas’ student, taught his fellow church members about plastic use as well. Martin’s church now plans to clean litter around its property.

Also, during the class’ research, the students asked to visit a landfill and offered to clean the roads around them, the city of Lithonia recognized their efforts awarding the school an “Adopt-A-Road” sign, according to the school.

“I want to encourage [them] to keep listening, keeping changing and keep learning,” said Corey Stegall, Panola Way Elementary School principal. “If [they] make [themselves] a lifelong learner there is nothing [they] won’t accomplish. I am proud of [them].”

Thomas originally requested that SeaWorld give the students discounted tickets for their commitment to their research.

However, after the students finished their presentations, SeaWorld Orlando’s Animal Rescue Specialist Nicholas Ricci surprised Thomas and her students with free tickets to SeaWorld Orlando and the Georgia Aquarium via a Skype call.

Read the full story at TheChampionNewspaper.com.