Warrior Ecology (3/11/19)
By Community Relations Intern: Tristan Johanson (North Thurston ℅ 2020)
At Chinook Middle School, staff and students alike are consciously aware of their environmental impacts, but no one is working as hard to protect our environment as the Warrior Ecology Club. Established by Ray Nelson back in 2008 or 2009, the purpose of the club was to bring environmental awareness to the school and community. Nelson said, “We did so through projects like invasive plant removal of the forest area on the Chinook Middle School grounds, water quality monitoring on the at the headwaters of Woodard Creek, and an effort to decrease Chinook Middle School’s food waste then called Operation leftovers.”
Operation Leftovers is still in effect today and it is simple; each lunch table has a small bin for students to place any unwanted food items, such as milk or apples. Other students can then take those extra items for free. Food and Nutrition director Alicia Neal said of the project, “Involving students in programs that help tackle food waste issues helps bring an awareness to important issues beyond their own plates and offers a great way to explore broader subjects like ecology, composting, recycling, and health eating.”
Additional proposals for change included asking the School Board to consider implementing a compost area on campus. While this didn’t happen, it didn’t stop the club from pressing on. It was then asked for the school to switch from plastic to metal utensils, an initiative which failed at Chinook due to expense but did eventually make its way to the brand new Salish Middle School.
When Mr. Nelson left Chinook, many of the original club members moved up to high school, leaving the club to be a mere memory -- that is until Katie Agren picked it up last year. The current members, Avelinn, Isabel, Kayla, and Olivia, are drawing attention to the problem of single-use, plastic water bottles. The girls all agree that few of their peers are aware of the impacts plastic bottles and caps have on the environment so to bring awareness, they have chosen to create turtle shells out of bottle caps collected from their very own school. One of the members said, “No one realizes that these caps can’t be recycled and I think they need to understand the impact these little plastics have.”
A contest was held to see which class could collect the most caps and the teachers were ecstatic. It became a mad dash to see who could collect the most caps in the allotted time. There were different winners each week, but Mary Robles’ class was the most frequent winner. The group will be using these caps to create plastic turtle shells. With the help of the Procession of the Species team, they will be bringing awareness to the fact that such caps cannot be recycled.
While the club’s focus has been on the the bottle cap project, they will soon turn their attention to another goal -- a water refiller. Last year, the group brought up a proposal to their ASB to install a water bottle refill station to reduce the number of plastic bottles being thrown away on campus. While the project was not funded, the club still hopes for a cleaner school and they will continue to push for the change to reusable water bottles. “For now we are focused on recycling, then we will go back and eliminate the waste to begin with,” said Agren.
The members all agree that though they don’t see any future career in Ecology, they do hold a great respect for their environment and will “incorporate it into their daily lives” by “making small changes” now and in the future.