“I have an idea, Mom. You know how there are problems with lead pipes in schools? I want to collect all the plastic from the ocean and make it into plastic pipes, so we won’t have metal ones anymore!”

A few days before I left for my eXXpedition journey, my daughter, Normandie (age 12), came to me with this idea. And now, on a journey in the Pacific Ocean, on route to the Galapagos, one of the world’s most precious biological hotspots, I am thinking about my children and all our children. Our kids are poised to inherit a plastics problem — just one of many climate concerns — to which they themselves have contributed very little. This is a discouraging prospect. And yet, my daughter’s creative problem-solving is anything but discouraging. It is the type of creative solutions focused thinking we need and that we need to foster in our children.

I spend a lot of my time as a science education professor thinking about the kinds of education and experiences our children need to develop the knowledge, skills, and creativity they need to flourish and to make sure all species flourish in this planet we share. I focus on place-based learning in science by engaging my students in learning that is centered in places near and far and that uses scientific lenses and inquiry to examine issues in places. I centralise our local place as the first point of reference. When we develop understandings and care for the places near to us, we can expand that care and understanding outwards to other places. I’ve found that when students learn science in these ways, they understand their place through the lens of science, they begin to consider their roles within places, and they understand the full cycle of the humans impact on ecosystems (e.g. where stuff comes from and where it ends up after we dispose of it or after it gets flushed down sewage systems). These are the kinds of learning experiences that can also help students build bridges of understanding to places far or inaccessible to them—places like the Galapagos, which is quite far away from my hometown of Buffalo, NY.

As important as knowledge and skills are, they may never leave the confines of our own minds if they aren’t accompanied by hope and creative problem-solving. One of the best ways we can teach this is by providing opportunities for students to create solutions and advocate for change. Students feel the power of their voices and ideas when they express them beyond the classroom walls.

On my journey with eXXpedition, studying plastics, seeing plastics in the ocean first-hand, and focusing on women’s empowerment in science and sailing, I feel drawn towards movement. Yes, plastics are a complicated problem. Yes, there is no single solution. And yes, we are the solutions.
When my kids look to me for courage and with questions to face these climate issues, I have answers. I answer with this eXXpedition journey. I answer with the projects I am working on with students to study waste in their schools and advocate for change. I answer by showing my children a single mom who is actively working for change. I answer by helping to restore our ecosystem and by working on it with them. I answer with small efforts (e.g. reusable bags, bar soap instead of liquid, etc.). I answer with large efforts (my hope to develop a citizen science ecotourism business). I answer with my life.