By 2050, the earth’s oceans will contain more plastic straws than fish.
“Animals are dying. People are getting hurt. Plastic is polluting our planet,” said Emily Yu, a Boston 6th grader who was one of 85 Boston Public School (BPS) students in grades 4 to 6 that recently showcased their Capstone end-of-year research projects at WGBH.
Emily wants the entire United States to ban plastic straws, just as Seattle has. She shared her detailed data and proposition with school administrators, dozens of teachers, WGBH staff and parents who ambled through displays of colorful, information-filled research projects created through BPS’s Excellence for All (EFA) program and exhibited at WGBH Studios in Brighton. EFA, an initiative of BPS’ Office of Opportunity Gaps, aims to level the playing field by helping schools expand access to 21st Century learning experiences for marginalized students in grades 3-6. WGBH’s Education Group provided mentoring, in-school support and academic resources through PBS LearningMedia.
Emily’s peers took on equally challenging topics: affordable housing, inequality of experience during Hurricane Katrina, immigration and mass incarceration.
“We were so pleased to showcase the incredible work these students have accomplished over the past year,” said Seeta Pai, executive director of Education at WGBH.
EFA’s rigorous and enriching academic program aims to support underserved students — Black, Latinx, immigrants, speakers of a second language or experiencing special education needs — and equip them with the skills they’ll need for high school, college and career.
“The students here today are on a different path,” said Regine Philippeaux-Pierre, EFA’s senior director. “EFA changes who students are. It changes their academic identities,” she said. “They see themselves as scholars, able to do research, articulate a perspective and define a problem.”
EFA is re-imagining what learning looks like through a student-centered approach, innovation and studies in STEM and social studies, grounded in making sure that no children are left behind. For WGBH President and CEO Jon Abbott, the EFA program exemplifies one of WGBH’s core values: “Equitable access to education leads to equity in opportunity.”