At the end of December, ENMS sixth-graders Isabela Endler, Evan Liu,
Blake Johnson and Michaela Tumsuden met and interviewed the Mayor of Sea
Cliff, Mr. Edward Lieberman. As part of the district’s Investigate
program, students take part in a semester long assignment called
“Project Citizen.” For this project, students identify an issue of
public policy in their community that concerns them and take
action—researching, interview community members with regards to the
issue, and identifying potential solutions.
This particular group of students were deeply affected by a viral video
of a sea turtle suffering as a result of a plastic straw becoming lodged
in its nose, and decided to select plastic straw use as their issue to
research. After discovering that the village of Sea Cliff had very
recently passed legislation to outlaw the use of all single use plastics
in their community, including straws, Styrofoam containers, coffee
stirrers, and cutlery, they immediately emailed Mr. Lieberman,
requesting an interview.
Mr. Lieberman spoke with the students at length about the importance of
taking care of the environment, and the negative influences of plastic
on our oceans and sea life. He shared that plastics can last over 500
years in our oceans. The students learned about the steps Mr. Lieberman
and his trustees took in study the problem and to pass the legislation.
Together, Mr. Lieberman and the students discussed potential solutions
to the issue, and possible alternatives to plastics in our lives,
including paper and bamboo straws, and cutlery made of corn.
Student Blake Johnson questioned, “Why should restaurants just give out
plastic straws? They shouldn’t give them out if someone didn’t ask for
one,” and Mr. Lieberman agreed. Although the problem can seem
overwhelming at times, given the presence of plastic in our lives, Mr.
Lieberman shared some sage advice.
“A journey starts with a single step,” he told them, “but the second step is going out and changing the world!”
Ms. Brianne Furstein, one of Investigate’s facilitators, echoed his
sentiments. “The future belongs to these passionate young students,” she
said, “and they are the ones who will make our world a better place.”
The students found his expertise and advice to be an invaluable part of
their research. They look forward to presenting their findings and
making recommendations to legislators at Touro Law Center later this