Carter Ries, 14, of Fayetteville, Ga., an eighth-grader at Konos Academy, created a weeklong educational curriculum with his younger sister that is teaching kids about the importance of reducing plastic pollution. After watching TV coverage of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, Carter and his sister, who had already been working on projects to save endangered species, spent four months collecting animal rescue supplies and then delivered them to a rescue center on the Gulf. While there, they were shocked to learn from a veterinarian that plastic trash in the oceans is an even greater threat to marine animals than oil spills. "After hearing that, we knew we had to do something to educate communities about plastic pollution," said Carter.
The two siblings spent the next five months educating themselves about the issue and decided to develop a program to teach their peers across the country "how bad the problem is and how they could be part of the solution," he said. They consulted community leaders and anti-pollution organizations, and then worked with teachers to create their "Plastic and Recycling Awareness Week" curriculum. In five one-hour lessons over the course of a week, it teaches kids about the dangers of plastic refuse, how to identify recyclable types of plastic, and how to "precycle" by using things like reusable water bottles and cloth shopping bags. After the program was tested successfully in Carter's school, he and his sister began taking it to other schools and youth organizations around the U.S., and have introduced it in the United Kingdom as well.