Did you know that Sea Turtles have been around since the age of the Dinosaurs yet sadly all seven species are considered either threatened or endangered in the 21st century? For over 100 million years they have traveled through the world’s oceans and if extinct, their absence will significantly impact the planet’s ecosystems. One major factor impacting Sea Turtles is within our control – limiting the amount of pollution in our oceans is one of them. In an effort to help sustain their existence, 17-year-old Girl Scout ambassador Alice A. has created “Operation Save The Turtles” a course curriculum to educate the community about the importance of Sea Turtle Conservation”. The initiative was launched partnership with Deering Estate, a prominent park and historic landmark in Miami-Dade and is available as part of their ongoing programming schedule. We recently sat down with the Bulgarian-native to learn more about her Gold Award project, the impact it’s having on our community and what she learned about herself in the process.
Tell us a little bit about your project
“I launched an initiative to educate the community and specifically children about Sea Turtle Conservation and the role they play in sustaining Coral Reefs. The project, launched in collaboration with Deering Estate, involved a number of creative and educational elements to keep the interest of school-age children. I created a comprehensive course that focused on the importance of marine environments, coral reefs, and sea turtles, per the state-level science and education policies from the NGSS for the Deering Estate summer camp. I I designed, painted, built, and decorated a 3D model of a Green Sea Turtle to demonstrate the adverse way plastic effects turtles in the Marine Conservation curriculum. I also created an animated video meant to visually demonstrate the Sea Turtle and the pieces of plastic inside and outside of its body. In addition, I created an interactive section of the lesson where children inspect and interact with the turtle as part of a murder mystery game.”
What gave you the inspiration for your project?
“My troop and I were brainstorming possible Gold Award ideas, and someone mentioned how the game 'operation' where kids perform “surgery” on patients and how it could be possibly used in a project. From there, I thought about the concept of making the “patient” a turtle to visualize how plastic affects the turtle’s internal organs. This was the starting point and then it slowly came together over time.”
Can you tell us about the biggest challenge you overcame and how?
“Due to the circumstances of COVID-19, I was forced to change my project plans, schedules, deadline, and ultimately, the course of the project itself multiple times throughout 2020. I was limited in my communication with my project director, unable to teach my course in person, or present the turtle at Deering Estate's Seafood Festival, which was the original goal for my project. I overcame the obstacles by remaining flexible, adjusting to new timelines and requirements, and trying to be proactive in addressing the problems that come with distance-learning (which is why I tediously animated my course instead of simply presenting it).”
Why is this project important to you personally?
“This project gave me a purpose to focus myself on during the long, aimless months spent in quarantine. It gave me the opportunity to utilize all of my skills in drawing and editing and push past my own expectations. It is a source of pride, confidence, and achievement for me. Furthermore, I learned so much about Sea Turtles, coral reefs, and the ocean in the process. They are crucial members of the expansive food chain and coral reef ecosystem that maintain the balance and health of the world’s oceans. I found a personal love for Sea Turtles and coral reefs. Helping these precious animals doesn't require a life sacrifice, I learned that you could make a difference in the little things.”
How do you foresee this project contributing to your future goals?
“It gave me hands-on experience with video editing and how challenging yet rewarding the results can be; this project opened up the possibility of a new career path for me.”
What did you learn about the community in this process?
“I learned that people in my community are willing and interested to help and learn about marine conservation and Sea Turtles. Multiple people volunteered their assistance while I was working on my project because they believed in the cause. It showed me that change is possible and it's easier than one may think. Deering Estate puts in a great effort to protect and educate Florida's ecosystem; I was inspired by their love and passion for nature. It showed me our community treasures the unique environment that Florida offers, and I felt extremely lucky to be a part of such an important cause among so many other leaders.”
What did you learn about yourself?
“I learned a lot about myself through this entire process – It gave me a purpose, an outlet throughout the long days of quarantine. It taught me that I can push my own limits farther than I thought. I learned that I enjoy working towards big goals and as I grow, I hope to continue to make a difference for Sea Turtles and the marine conservation.”
To learn more about Alice’s efforts to help sustain the Sea Turtle population and the marine ecosystem, watch the video portion of her curriculum here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u534FtosoXk
“Girl Scouts has made me a doer.”