TRINITY — The documentary “A Plastic Ocean” was filmed in 2016 with the goal of educating and inspiring.
The film documents the scourge of plastic materials littering oceans and waterbodies around the world and the negative effects these persistent manmade materials have on the environment, sea creatures and human beings.
It’s a video that’s shown in many classrooms around the world and its creators succeeded in inspiring another group of young viewers this school year.
John Sousa played “A Plastic Ocean” for his exceptional education students at J.W. Mitchell High School and the teacher soon realized it had a special impact. Students didn’t want to just learn more, they wanted to get out and help.
Seeing their growing passion for being ecofriendly, Sousa developed a recycling program as a class project. Every day 9-10:30 a.m., Sousa’s students canvass the Mitchell High campus collecting recyclable materials from the lunchroom, classrooms and common areas.
“I started exploring some options for my students to learn and a lot of our special needs population learns by doing things and seeing things,” Sousa said.
As the project has grown this school year, Sousa’s exceptional education students have attracted further assistance from the student body and school staff, Sousa said. His students are beginning to take part in efforts organized by the Mitchell Ecology Club and a partnership has formed with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Students have also begun expanding their efforts outside of the classroom.
“The kids are loving what they’re doing,” said Sousa. “I never imagined that it would turn into a homework project where they take it upon themselves to instill it at home. And for special needs kids, to feel that importance and that they’re doing something, it’s nice to see and it’s kind of turned into a contest.”
Helping the recycling effort become successful is its daily schedule, said Sousa, who previously taught at Wesley Chapel High School and created a similar recycling program there.
“The best way for my students to learn skills is to instill a program where we don’t deviate from the program,” he said. “It’s a continuous routine.”
The exceptional education students’ recycling program is essentially supplementing Mitchell High’s existing recycling efforts. Blue recycling bins are located all over campus and the exceptional education students are helping make sure they’re where they need to be, Sousa said.
“Everywhere there’s a trash barrel on our campus there’s a blue container next to it,” said Sousa. “My kids call it the blue buddy.”
If there’s a regular trash barrel somewhere without its “blue buddy,” students let their teacher know immediately. The school and custodial staff has offered plenty of assistance increasing the number of the “blue buddies,” Sousa said.
To help spread the word about the recycling program and the importance of environmental stewardship, Pasco County Schools produced a short video highlighting Sousa and his students. The video is viewable on the Pasco County Schools’ YouTube page. It also shows how Sousa adapted a wheelchair for a student to be able to pull a barrel and participate with classmates.
“We’re getting more and more cooperation from our family of students here at Mitchell,” Sousa said of the all-around effort. “For the size of the school we have, it’s unbelievable the amount of materials we’re saving.
“The administration and everybody is behind it and the kids are getting a kick out of it.”