This artistic depiction of a kelp forest was created by local students and is on display at the Ucluelet Aquarium.

Surfrider helps students turn trash into art in Ucluelet

Youth’s unique art installation on display at Ucluelet Aquarium.

Local students have crafted a unique art piece they hope will inspire change.

The artistic creation, made of garbage collected from local shorelines, was part of a Trash to Treasure program that brought Ucluelet Secondary School students up to speed on the dangers single-use plastics pose.

The program, which wrapped up on June 14, was hosted by Surfrider Pacific Rim and Nanaimo Science.

“The goals of the program were to raise awareness of the impact of pollution on the environment, specifically plastics,” Surfrider Pacific Rim coordinator Michelle Hall told the Westerly News.

“This program empowered students to become environmental stewards.”

She said students learned how to become guardians of their local beaches and about how the single-use plastics they use in their daily lives impact the environment around them.

“Students were asked to collect 10 single-use plastic items from homes and do science predictions to see if they would float on the surface, hang in the water column, or sink to the bottom,” Hall said.

“We then discussed the different marine animals that would be affected by that, for example birds eating the surface plastics, whales and fish eating suspended plastics and otters and starfish eating the sunken plastics.”

She said the artwork the students created would be used to raise public awareness. “Students worked together on an art display as a class, with the help and guidance of Surfrider volunteers, high school teachers and local marine debris artist Pete Clarkson. Together they created a ‘Kelp Forest Ecosystem,’” she said.

“They also learnt the beauty in becoming an environmentalist, by bringing this awareness to the public through art. Instead of feeling angry, students felt happy and joy to be creating the art piece together and now it’s on display in the [Ucluelet] Aquarium for everyone to see, including their stats from the data debris records.”

The students each pledged to nix one plastic item from their lives forever with popular choices being bags, straws, cups and single-use water bottles, according to Hall.

She said Surfrider has an important role to play in fostering an environmentally-minded local youth culture.

“Our future for the health of the oceans, beaches and marine life is in the hands of youth. It’s so important to guide them, and be guided by them,” she said.

“The local kids on the Pacific Rim all play outside, they all have a vested interest in protecting what they love, for their generation and the next to come. It’s important that they connect back to how their ancestors looked after the land and fed their families from it.”

Along with offering local programming and campaigns, Surfrider Pacific Rim also hosts monthly beach cleanups and anyone interested in getting involved with the foundation’s efforts is encouraged to reach out to surfriderpacificrim@gmail.com.