A few weeks before shelter-in place was mandated in San Francisco, Kelly Newman, a science teacher for middle and high school students at St. John’s Academy, adopted several drains close to the school as part of the SFPUC’s Adopt a Drain Program. An advocate for watershed programs, Newman wanted to teach her students awareness about ecosystems, the environment, ground water, and wastewater.
“It is so important to me to educate students on the importance of taking care of the environment. It’s something that stays with them forever,” explained Newman.
“A memorable experience” for Newman’s 8th grade students as they recall, was one of the last ‘field trips’ they got to do before the pandemic. With gloves and rakes in hand, they spent a couple of hours outside cleaning their drains for the very first time. SFPUC Communications Specialist Sabrina Suzuki connected with Newman’s 8th and 9th grader students via a Zoom call, where students recounted what the experience was like or listened and learned.
“It wasn’t disgusting at all,” explained Anton Moroz. “It was fun and seeing the after effect of a clean drain is really rewarding. I don’t want to see any pollution in San Francisco.”
Valentina Shterngerts, says she is grateful for the experience and explains how the COVID-19 situation and sheltering in place is a time that people should reflect on what they can do to better protect the environment.
“I hope other students and teachers throughout San Francisco will decide to join the Adopt a Drain program. This is a way to make your neighborhood and the whole world better,” explained Shterngerts.
Zoya Bacari, says learning from her teacher about ecosystems and seeing first-hand what a difference, picking up trash can make was an eye opening experience.
“When you look at all the debris on the street, imagine that it goes into the storm drains and into the ocean and bay; think about the animals who have to live through that and how they can get caught in trash and have to survive with all the chemicals and cigarette butts,” explained Bacari.
The 9th graders on the Zoom call didn’t have a chance to clean drains before the pandemic but they are eager for things to get back to normal so they too can be called “drain heroes.”
“When we go back to school, I definitely want to clean like 8th grade did. It sounds so interactive, I want to get a chance to be a part of it,” explained Mary Jajeh, a 9th grader.
And while Jajeh remains optimistic during the pandemic, she hopes people can always look for the good in things and encourages other San Francisco schools to get in on the action. “For the first time, worldwide, we are going through the same thing and can relate to each other. We must help ourselves and the people around us. It’s really inspiring to see people come together.”