Thursday, May 5, 2011

Dog poop

When asked to give Earth Day presentations to grade school classes at Atwater Elementary in North Port, I had no problem deciding on the best topic.  It was dog poop.  I thought that dog poop would be just the thing to grab the kids’ attention and boy was I right.

The title of the slide show “Who wants to swim in dog poop?” was on the screen as each class entered the room and it evoked the yucks, ews and grosses I was expecting and made them anxious to know what came next.

After the shock of the title we talked about how they enjoy the beach, boating and fishing and then each child named their favorite sea creature. 

We then moved on to pollution, in general what it is and what it does and then jumped to the water pollution that kills the kind of sea creatures we had identified; I showed them photos of sea turtles and fish killed by harmful algae.  It made the kids sad, but the next slides were about dog poop and again, laughs were produced.

It was easy to show them how dog poop that remains on lawns gets washed away with stormwater into street drains and ends up in creeks, lakes and bays and when they realized that they do swim in dog poop when they go to the beach the yucks and grosses were even more pronounced.

The thing is, many kids, even kindergarteners and first graders, are in charge of taking their dogs out.  Finding things kids themselves can control when it comes to pollution prevention is especially helpful and picking up dog poop and putting it in the garbage is something kids can do.  My goal was to make them feel responsible for the problem and then act responsibly to combat the problem.

Some of the day’s highlights were:

Some kids told me their dads told them to pick up the dog poop and then throw it in the bushes or in another yard – they were tasked with teaching their parents why throwing the poop afield is not the answer.

I used some dog tag data to illustrate how much dog poop gets laid down on Sarasota County lawns every day – it came out to the weight of 636 first graders.  That really impacted the kids and the teachers; it was very appealing to think that the kids could have a hand in keeping that much pollution out of the water.

As I waited for the first of the ten classes I was a little worried my topic would be “too disgusting” but it was in fact the “gross factor” that made the lesson especially memorable.   After all was said and done, it was clear that dog poop was a hit with the grade school crowd.  I will have been especially successful if the kids completed the homework I gave them:  Go home and teach your parents about dog poop.”

Cris Costello
Regional Organizer