The last straw

Published 2:21 pm Monday, January 28, 2019

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Students’ ecology project inspires ban of plastic straws


A contingent of 52 sixth grade students from Georgie D. Tyler Middle School has led a successful campaign to get plastic straws banned not only from all of the county public schools, but also a pledge by two local restaurateurs to reduce their use.

According to information provided by Jessica M. Travis, the school’s library media specialist, the students in Kimberly St. George and Ashley Ashcraft’s homeroom classes watched and were inspired by Linda Booker’s documentary, “The Last Straw” ( In that film, they learned how discarded plastic straws have added to the world’s pollution.

For their part, the boys and girls did further investigation about the issue of plastic pollution. Travis, who is a project co-sponsor, said the students used their research to write a letter to either the owners of Windsor restaurants or the executive team of the Isle of Wight County School division, and ask for their help in reducing or eliminating the use of plastic straws. Working in small groups, the boys and girls created info-graphics intended to persuade the aforementioned targets to not use plastic straws.

That illustration went also on display in the GTMS halls and cafeteria.

The students had a virtual meeting with activists Beth Roach and her intern Maeve Hall. They talked to the students about their experiences as activists and encouraged the students to know how capable they are to make an impact on issues that matter to each of them.

After auditions, one team of students created a video designed to encourage restaurant patrons to “Skip the Plastic Straw.” The other team went to encourage IWCS administration, students and staff to do the same.

Allison Martins, Nazir Johnson, Justlie Cholewinski, Murphi Burgess and Kaydence Carter presented their campaign to the owner of Costa del Sol, Enrique Vasquez, who agreed to display the students’ infographic. The same was done at Hong Kong Chinese. Owner Yan Fong also agreed to display the students’ infographic.

James Donnelly, Madison Turner, Tess Blough, Lilleon Parish and Nazir Johnson, the second group of students, visited the IWCS executive team.

“Their campaign worked,” Travis stated. “The executive team decided to have all IWCS cafeterias change from plastic to paper straws. There are now no plastic straws in IWCS. All of the IWCS cafeterias now have biodegradable paper straws instead of plastic straws. This is a major success for the students’ project. Thousands of plastic straws will not become garbage or pollution because of these students’ campaign efforts.”

The next step of the project is to have a “Skip the Plastic Straw” Pledge Day at GTMS. The students who agree to the pledge will be asked to sign a banner during their lunch period. Each student who signs his or her grade level banner will receive a stainless steel straw and a stainless steel cleaning brush. The steel straws and brushes are provided by a grant from Dominion Energy.

“We are very grateful to Dominion Energy for sponsoring the stainless steel straws and brushes that allow our students to present an alternative to plastic straws to GTMS students, staff, and then community members who attend the students’ project expo, Thursday, Feb. 7,” said Travis.