Making plastic pollution education beautiful and meaningful: Educator Spotlight on Daryth Morrissey

Apr 18, 2023 | Classroom Activities, Community News, Educator Spotlight

Wayfinder Society is for environmental educators who believe in the power of collective action. It is an online platform hosting a robust offering of classroom and teaching resources that makes it easy for educators to create a fun, dynamic, and engaging classroom and to inspire their students through environmental awareness and action. Every other month, we highlight an educator in our network.

Author photo

Daryth Morrissey teaches 7th Science, Marine Biology, and Environmental Science at Ocean View School District.

Her motto these days is “Save yourselves!” She starts the year off helping her students realize that they can be the change they want to see in the world. When she was 12, the age she now teaches, she thought that she had to wait to vote to be able to make a difference. Now, in her classroom, she starts the year off with the “butterfly effect” activity – small changes can make a big impact. Students each fill-out and decorate their butterfly’s four wings to reflect the “four ways I can make a positive impact now – on my family, friends, school, and environment.” With the COVID pandemic, she added the 5th part on the butterflies body: self-care.

School activity display with butterflies showing students impact on family, friends, school and environment.
School activity display with butterflies showing students impact on family, friends, school and environment.
School activity display with butterflies showing students impact on family, friends, school and environment.

The images above show the collection of students’ completed butterflies showing
how they can have a positive impact on their self-care, families, friends, school, and environment.

Also, at the beginning of the school year, she starts her curriculum with learning about plastic pollution. Students collect trash from around the school grounds, sorting by type and color, and collecting the debris to use for their educational artwork displays to put around the school. On Coastal Cleanup Day in September she invites students and their families to join her for a beach cleanup – more plastic debris for the artwork displays.

Buckets with trash picked up around school and students standing around them.
School educational display made of waterbottle caps found on school campus.
School educational mural made of plastic debris art
Jelly fish made of plastic debris art
Sea urchin made of plastic debris art
Snowy egret bird made of plastic debris art

The images above show the educational art displays students made using plastic waste items
collected on the school grounds and during a beach cleanup.

Daryth has been a long-time friend of Algalita and has incorporated plastic pollution education into her classroom for many years.  Ever since we’ve known Daryth, she’s been an incredible role-model for walking the talk. She keeps this issue of plastic pollution real and tangible while empowering her students to be changemakers in their own lives.

She is in her 29th year of teaching middle school. As an all-around ocean enthusiast and active sustainability advocate, her goal is to make an impact on the planet and everyone she educates.

She is currently completing the professional development training for educators provided by the California Environmental Education Foundation. She is also president of the American Cetacean Society and board member of Amigos de Bolsa Chica a wetlands conservation organization. On top of that she is a naturalist for both organizations, as well as a UC Davis Coastal California Naturalist, and a cruise line naturalist on summer-time Inside Passage trips in Alaska!

“I want to make a difference. It’s that simple really. My life seems to be a service to others. I do have my fun moments in between trying to save the world and all life on it.”

– Daryth

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