Each year, the Shedd Aquarium challenges classrooms to think about the positive effects sustainable lifestyles have on the environment as they construct a wreath of recyclable materials. This year, the Shedd asked students: “How do we connect to animals and the earth’s resources when we reduce, reuse and recycle?”

The interest in this project came out of the “Why Do We Explore?” unit. Earlier this year, 4th and 5th grade Challenge students began the year following the Okeanos Explorer as it examined seamounts. The NOAA Okeanos Explorer is a federally funded U.S. ship whose mission is to systematically explore the ocean for the purpose of discovery. The students also worked on a problem-based learning exercise to find out how a community far from the ocean could be in part responsible for the ocean dying. In their research investigation, they found that excessive nutrients in the water, from pesticide and fertilizer runoff, is creating ocean dead zones. The students then came up with solutions for this problem and created a video that reported their findings and solution.

For the Wreathcycle Project, the students brainstormed and collaborated in class on an essay and decided how to use scrap materials to construct their wreath for the Shedd Aquarium. The wreaths at the Shedd will be displayed around the Shedd’s Caribbean Reef exhibit and other areas from Nov. 26 to Jan. 5. Currently, students are beginning the second part of this ocean exploration unit: How Do We Explore? In this unit, student will learn about and experience multi-beam sonar, surface mapping, buoyancy and underwater robotics.