Colby W., a 2nd grader at Woodward North, recently brought to school a Ranger Rick magazine article about the environmental hazards posed by celebratory balloon releases. The class had been learning about government and laws. Colby’s teacher, Suzannah Washburn, proposed that the students write a persuasive letter to the local government (the Johns Creek City Council and Mayor John Bradberry) about their concerns and invite them to visit Woodward North to discuss the issue. The mayor and a City Councilmember agreed to visit. The children ultimately sought to ban balloon releases in the city of Johns Creek.
We sat down with Colby and his teacher to discuss the class' efforts.
Colby, what was your reaction when you read about the problems caused by balloon releases?
Colby: It made me feel sad about them so I wanted to stop them.
How did you feel about the way students took action on this issue?
Washburn: I was very impressed with the students’ motivation and passion on the issue of the harmful effects of balloon releases.
Colby, how did it make you feel when the mayor agreed to come speak to your class?
Colby: I felt happy because I came that far in trying to change the law.
What were some of the questions the students asked?
Washburn: The students asked about the process of making or changing a law in Johns Creek. The students also asked all of the visitors how they felt about balloon releases. Lastly, the students inquired about ways to educate the public about new laws.
Did the students seem satisfied by the answers they got from the politicians?
Washburn: The students were encouraged by the responses from visiting Councilmember Stacy Skinner, but Mayor Bradberry was less encouraging about the prospect of making a law.
What are the students’ next steps? Outside of changing the law, what are some proactive things we can do about balloon releases?
Washburn: The students have begun brainstorming next steps. One idea (which still needs to be put to a vote) is to gather more information or data to convince the mayor. The students also suggested making signs or banners about the issue. Finally, students suggested educating their family members about the effects of balloon releases.
Colby: I think we should work hard to teach people about the harm of balloon releases.
What do you think the students learned from this experience?
Washburn: I think the students learned how a law is made at the city level. The students now know that they need four councilmen to agree to this in order to make it a law. They also learned that the public needs to be educated about the problem to ensure they have more people behind them on this issue.
- woodward north