Touching Toes

blog_dirt_ToeTouchMount Madonna students spread environmental awareness and hope on Worldwide Waste Reduction Day
The bringer of change is hope, and that is just what the students and teachers of Mount Madonna School have ample amounts of: hope for a future where people live sustainably with the natural world. To demonstrate this hope, the school’s Pre-K, fifth and ninth grade students and teachers gathered at Cowell Beach on Tuesday, Feb. 1 to celebrate Worldwide Waste Reduction day by picking up trash and participating in a Pacific Ocean “toe touch” simultaneously with Laie Elementary and Kaunakakai Elementary students in Hawaii.

The effort was meant to bring awareness to the human threat posed at ocean ecology, and to one keystone species in particular—the sea otter.

The students lined up in front of the ocean for the toe touch and at 11:30 precisely they ran in ankle deep, laughing and jumping, into the water. The gesture left many of the students with a sense of accomplishment and interconnectedness with the environment and one another. While standing with her feet still in the ocean, ninth grader Brianna Heldt said, “It was really nice to feel the connection [with the students in Hawaii] even though they’re so far away. It was a really great way of bringing awareness to how we’re all connected and how if we all work together we can actually clean up the ocean.”

While, as fifth grader William Murphy put it, they “want to tell the whole world” about the dangers confronting sea otters and their fellow marine animals, the students also had resolutions they wanted to apply to their everyday life. For instance, several students spoke about how they wanted to continue with waste reduction efforts with acts as simple as picking up trash when they happen to be at the beach, swearing off plastic bags and opting for reusable water bottles.

The Worldwide Waste Reduction Day and toe touch event was brought together by the students with the cooperation of UC Santa Cruz professor Terrie Williams, Save Our Shores, the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration and Friends of the Sea Otters. The event was part of a larger student project that James Sri Gyan McCaughan, Jessica Cambell and Lisa Catterall (Mount Madonna’s fifth and ninth grade teachers) brought their students together for in order create awareness of how they are embedded in the ecosystem as well as to empower them with the conviction that they are capable of changing the world.

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