In October, Vickie Bailey mentioned to her sixth graders at Carl Stuart Middle School that something strange was going on on the Pacific coast. Starfish were dying — disintegrating for no apparent reason — and scientists were trying to figure out what was happening.
The students, who are in two of Bailey’s gifted and talented literacy classes, did some research and decided they wanted to get involved.
Since that time, the students have made contact with the diver who first discovered the dying starfish, raised money for research and told their friends and family about the curious circumstances.
"So much of education involves motivation. The students are interested in this project because it’s their ideas we are building on," Bailey said. "This is not a Carl Stuart Middle School problem or an Arkansas problem, it’s a global issue. The students are learning about how to help solve problems that are not in their own backyard."
At Carl Stuart Middle School, the students are selling starfish character cards and T-shirts to raise money for research.
The starfish character cards are sold outside of the lunchroom for $1. Each card says "Saved a Starfish!" on the front, and the back features a made-up name and personality to make them more relatable.
For example, one starfish’s fictitious name is Cherry Bomb, and according to the card she "loves hanging out on her phone, she rocks the legging style and has so many friends. Her favorite color is blue and she is really smart but isn’t a nerd."
"If they were just paper with nothing on it, I don’t think it would be as fun for the kids to buy," said sixth-grader Hunter Norris. "They enjoy buying the personalities and knowing the starfish is actually something, not just the paper."
The students have also designed a T-shirt — with a logo created by art teacher Jeana Myers — to sell in order to raise more money for research.
The money being raised will be sent to Friday Harbor Labs, a marine biology laboratory affiliated with the University of Washington. The lab is researching the cause of Waste-Away Syndrome, the name of the condition affecting the starfish.
After the classes got behind the effort, student Savannah Queen commented on a YouTube video of the starfish, telling the video creator what she and her classmates were up to. At that point, Laura James, the diver who discovered the dying starfish, responded and said she was interested to hear more about what the students were doing.
Since that time, Bailey’s classes have video-chatted with James to better learn about the starfish and Waste-Away Syndrome.
The students have also used various resources to get the word out to their classmates. Olivia Marotte created an Instagram account — @savethestarfish — to share more information about what is happening. Lia Wilson has designed and created a Flipagram account, which is similar to Instagram but deals with short videos instead of photos, in order to get the word out. Ethan Tally created a YouTube video called "Save the Starfish!" and Daniel Kim designed the T-shirts and order forms to go with them.
Several other students have helped by making flyers and posters, selling the character cards and sharing more information across different forms of social media.
Bailey emphasized that, while this project includes several education aspects, the starfish endeavor goes above and beyond their normal class work. There are still books to read and tests to take, but the students are passionate about saving the starfish and are willing to take the extra time and energy to contribute to the cause.
(Staff writer Angela Spencer can be reached by email at email@example.com or by phone at 505-1212. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)