James Island kids participate in ActKIDvist Summer Challenge

Louis and Betty at the South Carolina Aquarium
Louis and Betty at the South Carolina Aquarium

by Lindsey Henderson with Betty & Louis

I am writing to you about my 7 year old, Betty and my 4 year old, Louis, who are James Island residents. Betty and Louis participated in the ActKIDvist Summer Challenge and were fortunate enough to partner with the aquarium and the Terrace Theater on their project.

What is ActKIDvist?

As you learn from their Facebook page, “ActKIDvist is an initiative dedicated to highlighting the meaningful impact kids are having in their communities and to empowering children of all ages with tools and resources for actKIDvism.”  It’s a wonderful concept and they were honored to be 2 of 17 children who are doing this summer challenge across South Carolina and Maryland.

Betty and Louis got involved with ActKIDvist after their pictures were posted across several local news sites as they joined me in our fight for a moratorium on new development on James Island. They attended several Charleston City Council meetings and protested new development in a way that young children could understand: save our greenspace, there is no more room in our schools, etc.

What they were asked to do

The outline of their Summer Challenge asked them to

1. Choose an Issue. Of course, the complexity of the issue and the subject matter varies from child to child depending on age, interests, etc.

2. Research the Issue. Explore credible online sources, participate in a job-shadowing experience, interview experts, etc.

3. Complete a Project/ Attend an Event. Start a petition, make a video, host an information session, participate in a rally, or distribute flyers. The possibilities are endless!

4. Share! Share pictures and video from your child’s summer actKIDvism using the hashtag #summeractKIDvism on social media.

Betty taking notes at the South Carolina Aquarium
Betty taking notes at the South Carolina Aquarium
Do the kids want to do it?

After speaking with Betty and Louis about this, there was no question that they wanted to help the sea turtles in some way. They have been involved in turtle releases on the Isle of Palms and Folly Beach since they were both toddlers.

Last summer we created an entire week of at-home curriculum around turtles with the Terrace Theater showing the documentary Turtle: The Incredible Journey and then our very first visit to the Sea Turtle Care Center at the South Carolina Aquarium. Betty was so excited – she took notes on each turtle we met and their conditions. And it was an amazing completion to our study to see some of those very same turtles released on Folly and our first visit to the new hospital.

Figuring out how to make the most impact

After reaching out to the aquarium, we were contacted by Kelly Thorvalson, the Conservation Programs Manager. She graciously agreed to meet with us and brainstorm the best way to make a positive impact on our sea turtle population.

The children were so excited as they took their first “meeting” at a nearby coffee shop. Betty had questions prepared and her journal out, ready to take notes.

Betty and Louis at the South Carolina Aquarium
Betty and Louis at the South Carolina Aquarium

We decided, after speaking with the Terrace Theater and realizing they were showing the turtle film again (as part of their Lowcountry Parent Family Film Series) we could be a liaison and bring the aquarium and the Terrace Theater together to make the documentary showing on July 12th, 2017 more purposeful.

Protection of nursing turtle moms

One thing that is easy for children to understand and therefore become passionate about is the way we can help protect nesting turtle mothers: knocking down our sand castles, filling in our holes, removing our beach gear/toys, and picking up LITTER! With Ms. Thorvalson’s help, we learned more about single-use plastic and its impact on marine life. We decided to educate other children on this issue.

We set up a table in the lobby of the theater with information about how we can help during turtle season and Betty and Louis were there to field questions (with the South Carolina Aquarium and Ms. Thorvalson’s support) before and after the film screening.

Betty and Louis at a turtle release
Betty and Louis at a turtle release
A pledge to make a difference

We decided we wanted children to walk away with an action. After talking to the children and families coming in to see the film, we asked the kids to sign a pledge:

“I pledge to remind my family to bring reusable bags when we go to the grocery store.” (Because our mamas have enough to remember already!) Louis had a plastic bag and demonstrated why they are so bad for our oceans. And Betty handed out reusable straws as a take-away.

It was a HUGE SUCCESS! The Terrace sold out two theaters and we have over 70 signatures from James Island children pledging to help remember re-useable bags! Ms. Thorvalson, the SC aquarium and the Terrace Theater were all so supportive and encouraging.

I couldn’t have asked for a better experience for my children.

We hope to continue our efforts to educate children about creative ways we can avoid single-use plastics. These two children are proud to be a part of this effort here on James Island.”Children should be seen and heard!