Teresa Koontz’s work as GATE (Gifted and Talented Education Program) Coordinator for the Carpinteria Unified School District involves teaching STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) lessons to elementary GATE students in grades three to five. She recently organized a project-based study targeting the upcoming Santa Barbara Plastic Straw Ban, asking students to analyze the pros and cons of the ban and reach their own conclusions. Koontz reported that “students were very interested in the topic since being from a beach community, they understand the impact that plastic waste has on our beaches and ocean life.” Following their research, each student created a slideshow and shared their presentations with classmates. Additionally, students worked in teams to create persuasive posters to help explain the straw ban to their peers. Finally, realizing that the plastic problem was larger than just straws, the students designed and created a prototype for an ocean cleanup device. “It has been an exciting unit of study,” Koontz said, noting that World Oceans Day is June 8 and the plastic ban starts July 1 in Santa Barbara.

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